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Slater922, July 21st, 2021
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Rhino Records (Digipak, Reissue, Remastered)

Black Sabbath needs no introduction to anyone who has even the most basic understanding of heavy metal. The godfathers of metal themselves have had a lengthy discography with many hits, and even some of their weaker releases still have something special in them that makes them memorable. However, while there is a huge debate on what is the best Sabbath record, my choice would easily have to go to their third studio album "Master of Reality". This release saw the band exploring more doom metal structures as well as an even heavier sound that would give birth to the stoner rock/metal movement. Not only is this their best album, but its stoner moments are extremely strong and innovative to a then-new genre.

Let's start off with the instruments. Sabbath's previous two records had their own heavy moments, but those albums fall flat when compared to MOR. Beginning with the song "Sweet Leaf", it starts with Tony Iommi coughing before we are immediately thrown into some heavy riffs. The guitars are easily the best part of the album, as they contain some heavy distortion, which is amplified by the slow-paced playing. This gives the atmosphere a slow, downer, and doomful feel, and it works perfectly. The drums also has some basic beats, but later in the song where it gets more intense, the drumming gets more complicated, and leads the other instruments to a more fast-paced, anxious moment on the track. The bass is also just as heavy as the guitars, and it adds in a thick foundation to establish the distorted riffs and drums. All of this is combined to make "Sweet Leaf" a strong composition, but it's not the only good track on here. "Children of the Grave" and "Lord of This World" go for a more epic and upbeat tone, which are further executed with the uplifting guitars and ecstatic drumming. "Solitude", however, remains one of my favorite sad metal tracks of all time, as the guitars play some calming riffs, with flutes and bells in the background further enhancing the slow and moody atmosphere. Every track on this album has some excellent guitar riffs, and the overall composition of this album is excellent.

What makes this even better is the vocals. Ozzy Osbourne's vocals on the previous albums are great, but his vocals are even better in this album. Ozzy emphasizes his words more than in previous releases, and his shouting gives him a raging personality that is fantastic at leading in the listener. One excellent example of this is in the final track "Into the Void". This track has some groovy riffs and rhythmic drumming, and this reflects well with the vocals. Ozzy's haunting voice flows perfectly with the doom/stoner feel, and his story about the rockets is greater thanks to his emphasis of some words. Also going back to "Solitude", Ozzy's singing is superb, as his more depressed personality makes his voice sound more angelic and soothing, further enhancing the sorrowful track. Ozzy's vocals on this album are damn near perfect overall, and it mixes extremely well to the instruments.

Even the lyrics are exceptional. The lyrics deal with themes on drugs, especially on the track " Sweet Leaf". Just look at this verse from the song for example:

My life was empty, forever on a down
Until you took me, showed me around
My life is free now, my life is clear
I love you sweet leaf, though you can't hear

This verse is about the person feeling empty, but now has something to look forward to thanks to the "sweet leaf". Sweet leaf is slang for marijuana, but the way the lyrics are written makes the reference feel subtle, and is further enhanced with the slow and stoner riffs and Ozzy's energized vocals. When it's not about drugs, however, the lyrics can get spiritual. Take the lyrics to "After Forever" for example, where this verse quotes:

Could it be you're afraid of what your friends might say
If they knew you believe in God above?
They should realize before they criticize
that God is the only way to love

This verse is about being open-minded about a god existing, which the band written to prove that they weren't Satanists. However, the subtlety is what makes this work extremely well, with the questions leading to multiple answers, and suggesting that it can be good or bad should there be a god or not. While the lyrics are simple on paper, their subtle tone enhances the themes, and they would be further executed by the instruments and vocals.

So what else can I say about this album other than it's the best Sabbath record ever? The doom/stoner instruments lead to some incredible riffs, the vocals only enhance it with Ozzy's extravagant vocals, and the diverse lyrical themes make the verses subtle and down-to-earth. Black Sabbath has released so many other albums since then, and while they've since disbanded, that doesn't mean that their work can't live on. If you're looking for a doom/stoner metal album with a heavy 70s nostalgia vibe, then "Master of Reality" is an album I highly recommend.