Black Sabbath- Master of Reality (1971)
It was not entirely unjustified for none other than that bastion of heavy metal, “Q�" magazine to describe this album a few years ago as sounding, “Like a steel foundry grinding to a halt. In Antarctica,�" for this is one very heavy album.
The albums undoubted greatness is even more incredible given that it was the band’s third album in the space of 18 months, their two previous being the hardly under-rated eponymous debut, and of course, the much loved ‘Paranoid.’
The bleakness of the monotone front cover, although embossed with the band’s name, mirrors the grim world view within. Opening with Ozzy’s hacking cough, the first song ‘Sweet Leaf,’ is a Sabbath classic; five minutes of praise for marijuana and one of the band’s most recognisable riffs.
Carried forward with purpose by a peerless Iommi, and with one of the greatest rhythm sections of all time, in Geezer Butler and Bill Ward, on top form, the band carve their way through After Forever, and Children of the Grave, dealing with God’s existence and a post-nuclear world in the process, punctuated only by the typically Sabbath instrumental, ‘Embryo.’
Lyrically, as well as musically, this album is up there with the heaviest, “Would you like to see the Pope one the end/ Of a rope- Do you think he’s a fool"�" Ozzy sings in After Forever, although this particular song seems to conclude that, despite the much-vaunted ‘satanic’ imagery of the first album, the Sabbath boys really love the big man upstairs as much as the next man, “Open your eyes, just realise that he is the one/ The only one who can save you from all this sin and hate.�"
‘Lord of This World’ has yet another monster-sized riff, and continues the doom and gloom after the brief respite of another instrumental, “Orchid.�"
The album takes a surprising turn with the haunting and hallucinatory song ‘Solitude,’ where Ozzy displays a surprising vocal range and talent, in a song which is reminiscent of previous albums effort, ‘Planet Caravan.’
Nevertheless, the band are swiftly back to doing what they do best on album highlight, “Into The Void,�" which again combines another doom-laden Iommi riff with a thudding bass line and pounding drums.
It was reputed that Bill Ward had difficulty playing on some of the songs on the album; such was his condition at the time due to the copious amounts of drugs ingested by the band. If this is true, it certainly isn’t apparent on the album. Ward, as always, bludgeons his way through each and every track.
Like the rest of the album, the song has a surprising rawness and energy which gives it a sound more akin to a live performance than a studio-recorded album.
One of the best things about Master of Reality is its enduring heaviness. Even now, decades after it was first unleashed, it remains surprisingly forceful. The dense sound and relentless power means that this album will always be one of the most durable and, as most thrash, grunge or doom bands will testify, influential albums of all time.
‘Black Sabbath,’ may well be the blueprint, ‘Paranoid,’ the most well-known, but ‘Master of Reality,’ remains the most metal of all metal albums.
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