Black Sabbath
Master of Reality


4.5
superb

Review

by Matthijs van der Lee USER (219 Reviews)
February 15th, 2010 | 73 replies | 3,762 views


Release Date: 1971 | Tracklist

Review Summary: And you thought Paranoid was heavy?

12 of 12 thought this review was well written

After shaping the very foundations of heavy metal with their debut and Paranoid, the Sabbath march of doom continued mercilessly. Master of Reality, released in 1971, was to be their heaviest yet. The cause of this was continued strain on Iommi whilst playing, following the loss of his two fingertips in an accident quite some years earlier. Tuning down his guitar to ease the tension of the strings, the album’s sound inevitably became even darker and sludgy, because also Butler would tune down his bass to fit in with Iommi. Later, the record would become a powerful inspiration for the doom metal and stoner rock genres, and it is not hard to hear why.

Since their inception, Sabbath had been marked as followers of Satan, which isn’t much of a surprise if you write songs such as Black Sabbath and N.I.B, and play them in such a dark way. These accusations were not entirely justified, however, as true evidence of devil worshipping could not be found in any of the band’s lyrics. Nevertheless, it was not an image the boys were always that happy with. After Forever, completely about belief in God, countered their image directly: lines such as ‘They should realize before they criticize/That God is the only way to love’ make for a pretty clear message. Lord of This World continues this trend, being about a more personal struggle between good and evil: ‘Your world was made for you by someone above/But you choose evil instead of love’.

In that sense, Master of Reality completely contradicts itself, playing these differently-themed songs in that darker-than-ever-before relentless thump. The exceptions are the half-minute and one-and-a-half-minute instrumentals, Embryo and Orchid, respectively, and the ballad Solitude. All have a medieval feel to them, and while the first two are merely breaks from the inevitable heaviness, the last is, like Planet Caravan, a true soft track proving Sabbath could definitely do other things that being heavy and writing about equally heavy subjects. Once again, Osbourne’s vocals completely contradict is usual near-annoying wail, and his performance can actually be called superb, completing the mournful ballad that has Iommi playing both flute and piano to great effect.

The three best moments on the rather short album are, however, its three heaviest. Opener Sweet Leaf immediately introduces that unforgiving, relentless thump, and is, like Hand of Doom, about Sabbath’s recurring subject of drug abuse (Looking at the title, I shouldn’t have to explain which drug it concerns). It sets the mood perfectly, displaying a strong musical image of unavoidably being drawn into the spiral of addiction. Into the Void is similar, but takes more time to build up, and provides a perfect closer for the album. Once again a perfect match lyrically and musically, it tells how man will go down by its own persistence in technological progress, resulting in an apocalyptic world, or indeed, void. The best cut is the monstrous Children of the Grave, adorning the middle spot of the album. Because of its sudden higher guitar parts in between the same wall of heaviness that can be found on the rest of the album and its lyrics describing a world of hate and fear, it doesn’t get any more evil-sounding than this.

When you dig deeper into Master of Reality, you’ll notice that actually, it has a pretty overarching concept. Not for naught is it titled thus, as all songs somehow deal struggling with a sense of reality, be it being unavoidably drawn away from reality by drug addiction, doubt of faith, personal misery or a world full of hate and terror. It provides a counterargument for the perhaps unnecessary continuous heaviness. Because Master of Reality is very, very dark, probably Sabbath’s darkest ever. There are no more bordering-on-playful tracks here like Iron Man. No, perhaps, in the end, Master of Reality best perfected converting the band’s troubled home environment into music. In that sense, it is their greatest achievement, but still Paranoid provides to be more influential, varied and appealing. Some might still argue the album is the band’s best, but one thing can be said for sure: it definitely deserves a top 3 spot in the Ozzy Osbourne-era.

Master of Reality’s Black Sabbath was:

- Frank Anthony ‘Tony’ Iommi ~ Lead Guitar, Flute, Piano
- John Michael ‘Ozzy’ Osbourne ~ Lead Vocals
- Terrence Michael Joseph ‘Geezer’ Butler ~ Bass Guitar
- William Thomas ‘Bill’ Ward ~ Drums, Backing Vocals


Sabbath classics:

Sweet Leaf
Lord of this World
Children of the Grave
Into the Void


TO BE CONTINUED…



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user ratings (2064)
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4.4
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Nagrarok
February 15th 2010



8169 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Nag has little time to comment back, but go ahead. It's a tie between H&H and this for second best Sabbath album.

WhiteNoise
February 15th 2010



3048 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Started to read a couple of your reviews and again this one is really awesome.

I might go give this a listen again.

Digging: Dot Hacker - How's Your Process? (Work)

Piglet
February 15th 2010



4653 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

surprisingly i find my favourite black sabbath album to be Sabbath Bloody Sabbath on second thoughts.

Nagrarok
February 15th 2010



8169 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Bloody Sabbath is superb too, counts among their best.

ReturnToRock
February 15th 2010



3448 Comments


Sweet Leaf is tremendous, I remember loving it back when I was 12 or so. I had never heard anything like it. But I felt a little guilty about liking a song about weed :S

Children of The Grave is great as well.

BigHans
February 15th 2010



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

You Introduced me to my mind.

SteelErectedb4you8er
February 15th 2010



2613 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Good review, man. Although, I differ liking this album more than Paranoid, you did a good job with it. This is definitely their
doomiest release in my opinion. However, my favorite cut off this album is "Lord of This World." So many great riffs in that song,
and I love the cowbell!

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
February 15th 2010



8318 Comments


good review and all that jazz. Will be keeping tabs on your discography, but probably won't comment on every single review

SteelErectedb4you8er
February 15th 2010



2613 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

you should.

Dev518
February 15th 2010



571 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nice review

EVedder27
February 15th 2010



6088 Comments


Very interesting stuff and great read again.

Nagrarok
February 15th 2010



8169 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Thanks all. Volume 4 will be up tomorrow. This first three-stretch was such a brilliant start for Sabbath.

shortone323
February 15th 2010



883 Comments


Nice review. I can't believe how often you put good ones like this out.

Meatplow
February 16th 2010



5524 Comments


This blew my mind around the time I started smoking weed a lot.

Also, I don't know how you consistently pump out quality reviews like this. Done well.

Nagrarok
February 16th 2010



8169 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I can understand that. You're a fast reader Meatplow.

Meatplow
February 16th 2010



5524 Comments


Not to insult your work but if you want me to be honest 90% of reviews I skim over.

I usually get the overall gist well enough, though. Call it, "speed reading".

Nagrarok
February 16th 2010



8169 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

At least you're honest with me. I don't mind, I would have only if you just commented without reading.

Also, I don't know how you consistently pump out quality reviews like this. Done well.


Well, I wrote this bunch (the first 8, that is) some weeks ago, but decided to post them coinciding with the 40th Anniversary of their first album, being the first heavy metal release and all. But that said, I also just like writing/reviewing.

Meatplow
February 16th 2010



5524 Comments


I see.

Usually when I review stuff its a spur of the moment thing where I sit down for 2 or 3 hours and then immediately submit it.

Don't get me wrong, i'm reading it. Just glossing over the nitpicking of typos and sentence structures a lot of people seem to enjoy doing so much. ;]

Inveigh
November 8th 2010



24800 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

this is my favorite Sabbath album too Steel, just barely edges out Paranoid

Counterfeit
November 8th 2010



17819 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Sweet Leaf is probs my fav here. Would need to relisten.



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