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Classic Album Review

Retro Review: Master of Reality

ALBUM: “Master of Reality” by Black Sabbath

RELEASE YEAR: 1971

LABEL: Vertigo Records

RATING: 10/10

BEST TRACKS: “Sweet Leaf,” “Solitude” and “Into The Void”

FCC: Clean

The year is 1971. The “flower child” era is coming to a close, the Vietnam War is raging on and the people’s distrust in their governments grows stronger by the day. The music that arose at the beginning of the 1970s was no doubt fueled by this cultural shift. Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin had already begun to pave the way for a new, heavier version of rock, and Black Sabbath took it to the next level.

Today, “Master of Reality” is heralded as one of the earliest, and most prolific, metal albums to ever have been released. Sabbath’s first two albums could be considered the true beginning of heavy metal, but “Master of Reality” was an obvious turning point for the band in terms of sophistication. Unlike their earlier releases, it was recorded over the span of a luxuriously long three months. This gave them time for experimentation and re-recording.

The range on this album is impeccable. Part of what made Black Sabbath’s sound so unique was guitarist Tony Iommi’s finger injury, which he got while working at a sheet metal factory. To make playing less painful, he created fake fingertips that made a rich, heavy sound on his instrument. In “Master of Reality,” he also down-tuned his guitar to make it easier on his injured fingers. The result was otherwordly. Filled with the sludgiest sounds you can imagine, the album proved to be a staple of stoner metal with its leaden riffs.

But Iommi wasn’t the only standout. Singer and frontman Ozzy Osbourne truly came into his voice in “Master of Reality.” Ranging from high-pitched screeches in the classic “Sweet Leaf” to a soft, melancholy croon in “Solitude,” he really pulls out all the stops.

“Into the Void” is a six-minute epic with so many rhythm changes it’s impossible to sit still while listening. Iommi’s guitar solo in the last minute of the song is absolutely insane. “Children of the Grave,” another classic, is a powerful ode to the needless tragedies of the Vietnam War.

“Masters of Reality” stays true to its name. Sabbath’s goal was not to keep the carefree and idealistic visions of the 1960’s alive, but instead reflect the harshness of a new era with power and force.

By DJ Butter

A little Butter makes everything better. Part-time WKNC content manager and graphic designer, full-time sludgy surf rock funk master metalhead. Get in touch with ya suggestions n' such at content@wknc.org.