Black Sabbath - Master Of Reality
One of the biggest problems a successful and critically acclaimed band will ever face is following up an album everyone has been praising left, right and center as a masterpiece.
, the first album by the group of the same name, is often seen as a masterpiece of classic rock. Paranoid
, it's follow-up, has been equally acclaimed. After one or two stunning albums, a lot of artists start running out of gas and it's all downhill from there. As Sick Boy said using his unifying theory of life regarding Lou Reed's later career in Trainspotting
, "Yeah well it's not bad but it's not great either is it" I mean in your heart even though you know it sounds all right, it's just ***e". Luckily Black Sabbath didn't fall into that trap early, they had several great albums before their light started burning out critically and the bands third album Master of Reality
is often considered one of the bands greatest.
In context to the previous two albums, lyrically the band moved a step away from the psychedelic horror, fantasy and science fiction themes that were the signature aspect of the group at the beginning. This album is strongly grounded in reality, leaning thematically more towards earlier introspective/social commentary song attempts such as Hand of Doom
, Wicked World
& War Pigs
rather then fare such as The Wizard
or Iron Man
. It seems to me a loose concept album of sorts, with the title Master of Reality
referring to God with several songs on here dealing with finding spiritual peace and hoping for love in a forsaken world.
Pro-marijuana anthem Sweet Leaf
opens this one, guitarist Tony Iommi appropriately coughing on a blunt recorded for the opening sample. The minimalist fuzzed up riff is a great vehicle for Ozzy singing about how weed opened his mind to new concepts and nobody understands it, man..... and it works perfectly. Musically this song has several satisfying sections, particularly the harmonising of the main riff with a second guitar and when the band rocks out in the middle with Iommi letting fly with some very quick guitar pull-offs. It's a definitive 70's weed anthem. The next track, After Forever
, opening with a synth then exploding into a wall of guitars brings the theme of God into the light for the first time. Coming from a band seen as the high and mighty pioneers of the largely evil genre that is Heavy Metal, i was quite surprised to find what appears to be a pro-christian song. Written by Iommi, lyrically it deals with the "sad" culture of cynicism around believing in God and questions existence after death. Sung against the soundtrack of a pulsating machine gun of a guitar riff and Geezer's swooning bassline, this song sets the scene for the spiritual undertones of the rest of the album. While the apparently pro-christian aspects of this song may turn many off I don't feel this song is a christian song as such, as several other Black Sabbath lyrics seem to debunk any kind of spiritual leanings within the band (Supernaut
) and at times have even made the band appear Satanic (N.I.B.
) which of course they are not. It perhaps offers that everyone should be accepting of other people's views of the afterlife, because nobody knows the real truth of what comes after death. This is one of my favourite songs on the album.
is a guitar interlude with a medieval feel to it, it is short but sweet keeping up with the hollow spiritual feel of the album. After this we have Children Of The Grave
. If you ever needed to prove to someone Black Sabbath were one of the godfathers of heavy metal this would be one of the first songs you pull out of the hat. Lead by a chugging palm muted riff this song certainly shows a deviation from the general sounds of classic rock at the time, sounding more evil and removed from the blues then almost anything the band had released previously. This song is nothing short of thunderous, with monstrous riffs and complex percussion that sounds particularly amazing through headphones Ozzy's lyrics are haunting. It speaks of a world full of hatred and fear, and how love must overcome it becoming another crucial point of the album thematically. The second of the 2 interludes on the album comes next, Orchid
, which is another guitar instrumental much in the same vein as Embryo
except longer and technically more complex. It's rather beautiful, leading into the next track Lord Of This World
. With a thin, moody riff the song could be interpreted as speaking from the first person perspective of God looking down on a heretic, continuing the spiritual themes of earlier tracks on the album from a different perspective. The lyrics are solid, the music complimenting Ozzy singing them nicely with a sombre, lost feel within the distorted rhythms. Solitude
is a change in pace after this, it could be compared to Planet Caravan
for it's psychedelic feel though it is far too unique to warrant such a label. A slow, walking bassline, clean guitar arpeggios, chiming percussion and some beautiful keyboard/flute arrangements make one of the softest Black Sabbath songs recorded up until this point. Ozzy sings in a very sweet, very sad voice, about solitude and loneliness from the perspective of someone who appears to have lost someone of great importance to them and is now biding time alone in memory. It is a beautiful song, one of the most touching the band has written. Finally Into The Void
closes the album, and what a way to go out. This would be the second song you pull out of the above mentioned hat to show to anyone who sincerely believes Black Sabbath had nothing to do with the origins of metal, the palm muted chugging at 1:14 the grandfather of a thousand cliche metal riffs. This song is as apocalyptic as it comes both musically and lyrically, discussing the approaching end of the world as technology progresses while man is still stuck in the same emotional struggles. Stating we should just abandon the earth to all it's sin and worries it is very depressing, and closing an album that seems primarily about finding spiritual peace and love in a hateful world seems all the more eerie in relevance for a lack of resolution.
Master of Reality
is one of the greatest Black Sabbath albums there is, following up their first two albums was no easy task but the band rose to the challenge and to some arguably above it. The band continued to solidify their songwriting abilities into something new and equally brilliant with the loose conceptual theme about finding love, spirituality and God (the Master of Reality, i presume) in a possibly doomed world. The themes it brings forward are still challenging to this day with the music top notch classic rock, the legacy it left on the world of heavy metal musically still ringing true.