Master of Reality review by Black Sabbath

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  • Released: Jul 21, 1971
  • Sound: 10
  • Lyrics: 9
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 9.7 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.6 (64 votes)
Black Sabbath: Master of Reality
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Sound — 10
I implore you to go to your local music retailer right now. Look up plenty of stoner metal bands of the present day: Electric Wizard, Sleep, Earth, Bongzilla and stuff like that. It's excellent stuff, isn't it? They owe the bane of their existence, as musicians, to Black Sabbath's 3rd offering, "Master Of Reality." People tend to use the term "stoner rock" carelessly, but this album is probably the first incarnation of what we now know as stoner rock, largely indicative by the iconic introduction of this album: Tony Iommi choking on a hit from a bong or joint and Master Of Reality's biggest hit, Sweet Leaf. The sound of this album is a quantum leap from its predecessors, "Black Sabbath" and "Paranoid", for it marked extreme changes in songwriting, notably the band's first use of alternate tunings. Tony Iommi's handicapped hands experienced significant difficulty in playing their old songs in standard tuning. On "Master Of Reality", he tuned his guitar down three whole steps to make the strings easier to handle. Naturally, bassist Geezer Butler did the same to accentuate Sabbath's guitar driven proclivities. Doing so, and almost accidentally, the band created their heaviest record to date. It's supersonic and powerful, thick, almost leaden riffs display a terrific raw energy. The riffs. Let me talk about some of the timeless riffs on this album. Riffs that over the years have become massively influential and classic in every sense of the word. It is through no chance or overreaction that people nowadays refer to some guitar riffs and leads as "Sabbath-esque" or "Sabbathy". The grand onslaught of these riffs starts with the simplistic and contagious lead to "Sweet Leaf", one of my favourite riffs ever conceived. The glory to this riff, and with the majority of Tony Iommi's genius craft, is the simplicity - sacrificing complex timings, extra ghost notes and fancy finger work for simple motifs. The emphasis is put firmly on execution and groove. Take for example the riff changeups in the fine closer "Into The Void", going from the fine rolling and laid-back intro riff to some ferocious muted riffing, all complemented perfectly by Ozzy's high and melodic vocals. All of this combines to make one of the album's finest moments. Then there's "Children Of The Grave" which stretches the simplicity to a basic rolling note, repeated in a galloping time signature, augmented by the occasional menacing chord progression. This song was really ahead of its time, paving the way for the galloping marches of the finest Iron Maiden. What makes these riffs even better is the structure of the songs, which are intelligent and keep the various riffs fresh. For example, the changeups in "After Forever" evolve around a repetitive lead riff which gives way to various themes and new riffs, but always returns to retain the original flow and groove. Call them stoners, but this is intelligent song writing, and something ensued throughout the album.

Lyrics — 9
This is where things get tricky. As sludgy and droney as the album is, you'd probably expect: "Hell yeah, Satan!" lyrics, right? No. Not in the least is that what Ozzy did here. Lyrically, it's probably Sabbath's most positive album, despite the darkened sounds from the amplifiers. The lyrics take the shape of Christian bias and have generally happy undertones, like "After Forever", which warns of the dangers of turning away from God. Overall, a solid lyrical output, though it's by no means evil.

Overall Impression — 10
Black Sabbath was one of the most influential heavy metal pioneers and here is the proof. Thick, down-tuned, low-toned riffs, rhythmic bass and drums and a new standard for metal singers was what the band set in motion. Dubbed their most influential album, this definitely has something to offer. I recommend this album to the Sabbath fans and metal fans in general. Anybody who says they are into metal but doesn't like Sabbath is only fooling him or herself.

7 comments sorted by best / new / date

    krvolok
    I implore you to go to your local music retailer right now. Look up plenty of stoner metal bands of the present day: Electric Wizard, Sleep, Earth, Bongzilla and stuff like that. It's excellent stuff, isn't it? They owe the bane of their existence, as musicians, to Black Sabbath's 3rd offering, "Master Of Reality."
    Why just mention stoner metal when there is a genres which is even more directly influenced by early 70s Sabbath? And when did Iommi tune down to A#?
    krvolok
    I am usually not so persistent is such small things but I mean it's Iommi.You gotta love Iommi.
    Nirvana00125
    I love how DownInAHole's review basically said the album was awesome for influencing stoner metal. There's a ton of bands from a ton of other genres that are influenced by this album. Also, way to know your notation. First its A# then 2 whole steps? Fail.
    DownInAHole.
    Maybe because I don't give three shits about notation, specifically becuase I don't even really play guitar anymore. And it is regarded as the first stoner album, so yes, it influenced stoner bands. And if my review is so fail, please, write some.
    KjaK
    "...the iconic introduction of this album: Tony Iommi choking on a hit from a bong or joint..." In an interveiw bill ward said that all four of them smoked out of a chillum. Just thought i'd point that out.