Black Sabbath - Master Of Reality (1971) - Album Review

By Sergio Ariza

A master class in hard rock and metal 

A dry cough (Tony Iommi's own cough recorded by accident after taking a puff of a joint prepared by Ozzy Osbourne) gave way to one of those gigantic riffs that came so easily to the guitarist and not to the rest of humanity. Sweat Leaf appeared like an elephant in a china shop and showed that Black Sabbath were going to sound even harder and heavier on Master Of Reality and that; after a masterpiece like Paranoid, which had placed them on the altar of the fathers of heavy metal together with Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple; they still had things to say and they were going to say them loud - as in this unbeatable beginning which was their particular ode to marijuana.


With Master Of Reality Black Sabbath were two decades ahead of stoner rock or grunge, whose main groups like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Kyuss and Soundgarden would pay homage to the band and to this album in particular, using the trick that Iommi used in some of the songs on this album. The guitarist, who had two fingers partially cut off when he was young, suffered when playing, so he decided to lower the tone of his guitar by several tones to make it easier: the result being a much more cavernous and muscular sound, even darker than the black tones they had become used to: the best example being the wild Children Of The Grave, a song that according to good old Ozzy was the most "fucked up and brutal" thing they had ever recorded.

Of course, the rest of the album wasn't bad either, with gems like Lord Of This World, After Forever or Into The Void. It is the band's most musically expansive album, with the songs having more changes and a more diverse instrumentation, Iommi adding classical guitar parts (Orchid and Embryo), Geezer Butler following in Iommi's footsteps and lowering the tone of his bass which sounds much more powerful, Bill Ward adding overdubs and Ozzy sounding better than ever. Instead of taking advantage of the change in guitar and bass tone to sing lower - he does the opposite and sings even higher, achieving a great contrasting effect.


You can tell that the band had a lot more time to prepare this one than their first two albums, as it is probably the best sounding in their history, with Iommi getting to play other instruments as on Solitude, where in addition to his SG he plays flute and piano. It's one of the most interesting tracks on the album, starting with those classical influences he's already used on Orchid and Embryo, and an almost psychedelic feel, plus some great bass playing from Butler. It's a kind of respite from a dark and heavy album but it has a haunting aura to it, with Ozzy's voice sounding sad and desperate. It's the small calm before the brutal closing with Into The Void, the song on which the whole Stoner Rock sound of Kyuss or Monster Magnet was built, as well as being a favourite of other legends of the harder side of rock, like Metallica's James Hetfield,
Eddie Van Halen or Soundgarden, who even did a cover of it.

It's incredible that an album with only six songs and two brief musical interludes sounds this complete, but each of the tracks here contains multiple layers that are deep in grooves. Master Of Reality shows Black Sabbath at the zenith of their power and each song is a masterclass in hard rock and metal.