BLACK SABBATH — Master Of Reality

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4.35 | 165 ratings | 12 reviews
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Album · 1971

Filed under Heavy Metal
By BLACK SABBATH

Tracklist

1. Sweet Leaf (5:05)
2. After Forever (5:27)
3. Embryo (0:45)
4. Children Of The Grave (5:00)
5. Orchid (1:30)
6. Lord Of This World (5:26)
7. Solitude (5:02)
8. Into The Void (6:13)

Total Time 34:31

Line-up/Musicians

- Ozzy Osbourne / vocals
- Tony Iommi / guitars, synthesizer, flute, piano
- Geezer Butler / bass
- Bill Ward / drums, percussion

About this release

21 July 1971
Vertigo, Warner

Reissued as Deluxe Edition with a bonus disc with the following tracklist:

1. Weevil Woman '71 (2:59)
2. Sweet Leaf (alternative lyrics version) (5:03)
3. After Forever (instrumental) (5:19)
4. Children Of The Grave (alternative lyrics version) (4:35)
5. Children Of The Grave (instrumental) (6:01)
6. Orchid (alternate version) (1:40)
7. Lord Of This World (piano & slide guitar version) (5:37)
8. Solitude (alternate version) (3:45)
9. Spanish Sid (early version of Into The Void) (6:23)

Total Time 41:22

Thanks to Time Signature, Stooge, Pekka, Lynx33 for the updates

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BLACK SABBATH MASTER OF REALITY reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

martindavey87
Released in 1971, Black Sabbath's third album, 'Master of Reality', much like their previous efforts, is today regarded as a classic of the genre. Which means that for some inexplicable reason, I don't like it.

I kid. I kid.

Of course, I've given this album plenty of runs, but much like 'Black Sabbath' and 'Paranoid' (which I only gave a blasphemous one star), I just really struggle to get excited about any of this. Now, I respect the band and their contributions to the music world, but there's just countless other things I'd rather listen to.

Being optimistic though, 'Master of Reality' does sound more polished than its predecessors, despite the short time span between them (their third album in two years, a near-impossible feat these days). While I don't really care for Tony Iommi's "fuzzy" distortion, the songwriting is sounding a lot more confident than before, and at a stretch, I don't mind the songs 'Children of the Grave' and 'After Forever'. But for the most part the doom-laden riffs kind of plod along uninterestingly, and while I still find Ozzy's vocals mostly annoying, there are moments when he does actually shine. In particular, 'Solitude' shows a mellower, softer side to his voice, which I find actually works for him.

Regardless, Black Sabbath's third record is hailed as a classic, and while my review isn't out to deliberately tarnish that (rest assured that the albums status is under no threat), nor am I trying to deter anyone from listening to it (as if a simple review in this day and age would cause that), this is merely my review of an album I'm not all too keen on, from a band I'm struggling to get into.
The Crow
In my opinion Master of Reality is Black Sabbath's true masterpiece.

A (almost) flawless album with thunderous bass, incredible guitar riffs, an Ozzy in his best moment and great drumming too. The bass in the mixing of the album is almost too loud, but I love bass oriented bass so I just love the Geezer playing in this one.

The style of Master of Reality is more coherent and cohesive than the two previous efforts, achieving a very solid collection of songs with no real letdowns. They wanted to make a groovy yet heavy album, and they made a real milestone for stoner and heavy metal. Even more than Black Sabbath and Paranoid.

Sweet Leaf has a catchy, very groovy riff that together with its lyrics talking about smoking drugs defined the terms of stoner rock and stoner metal. The final part is great and the bass playing is really strong. A real classic!

After Forever starts in an ominous way, introducing a dynamic melody which ends in another anthological riff. The bass sounds even stronger than guitars! And I just love it. Just like a love Embryo, a little yet terrifying instrumental which leads to Children of the Grave, where Heavy Metal was really born in my opinion (together with Speed King and Bloodsucker from Deep Purple's In rock) It's incredible to hear a song which generated so much amount of influence through the years. A big part of the 80's heavy metal was already in this 1971 track!

Orchid is another good instrumental song, obviously very influential for bands like Opeth (the first album of the Swedish band was named just like this track and the acoustic sections sound similar) and Lord of this World introduces another great riff. The whole discography of bands like Sleeps come from this song! It's really difficult to measure this album's influence through the following decades, and Lord of this World is another good example.

Solitude is similar to Planet Caravan from Paranoid, but very much better in my opinion. An intimate and sad song with beautiful vocals from Geezer. And then comes Into the Void! Another incredible song which starts with a very groovy and funny guitar melody which soon derivate in a brutal riff, which also give way to another heavier and faster riff. And after the solo comes another different but also splendid guitar riff! The songwriting is really good, and so much improved since Paranoid... Just the best moment of this musician's career.

Conclusion: if songs like Black Sabbath supposed the birth of doom metal and other songs like Paranoid gave way to heavy metal, it's adequate to say that Master of Reality is the true birth of stoner metal. A bit of psychedelia, great and variated riffs and songs that talk about drugs and other obscure themes. And with such a great quality! Maybe Master of Reality lacks hits like Paranoid or Iron Man, but as a whole is the better album of the band. Just eight very influential songs which aged very well and a true pleasure for the ears.

Best Tracks: all of them (Ok, maybe Embryo and Orchid are not top notch, but also very good)

My rating: *****

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com
Sinkadotentree
As with their first two albums the bulk of the songs that would appear on "Master Of Reality" were gradually honed during live shows before eventually being taken into the studio and honed even more. Bill Ward states ""Master Of reality" is my favourite SABBATH album.I think it's the encore album after two brilliant albums that are historically proven in Metal today.The sound and quality of production, i think were our best so far. Our playing was becoming defined as not before, and a true musical progression from everyone was emerging." This is my favourite SABBATH album as well and without question the heaviest one they did during the Ozzy years. In the studio for this one Butler lowered his bass tuning to match Iommi's sound and Ward followed suit in adapting his technique and playing two bass drums. This is a heavy album ! There are four absolute killer tracks on here. First is "Sweet Leaf" which is a love song to Mary Jane of course and it opens with a loop of Iommi choking on a joint. "After Forever" lyrically sounds like it might have been written by a Christian band. A bit of a head scratcher actually but i love it. "Children Of The Grave" is probably my favourite track on here. This one smokes ! "Into The Void" is slow and heavy to start but it does picks up as they rip it up after 3 minutes. Ward is incredible on this album but to be honest they all are.
Conor Fynes
'Master of Reality' - Black Sabbath (8/10)

Although perhaps not as consistent as their seminal album "Paranoid", Black Sabbath took new steps forward with "Master of Reality". In the year since their self-titled debut, the band had received their share of fame and notoriety for their unprecedented heaviness and perceived 'Satanic' themes. As such, the band's third record seems to poke fun at these notions, showcasing a more laid back approach, and even praising the merits of Christianity. Although these new innovations don't always shine brightly, there is a still a hefty slice of the classic Sabbath sound here. Once again, Black Sabbath have not failed to impress.

Beginning on the iconic note of a sampled cough, the band erupt into "Sweet Leaf", a drug-addled tune that's become a fan favourite over the years. Picking up where they left off on "Paranoid", "Sweet Leaf" is pumped full of Tony Iommi's distinctive guitar fuzz. Barring that, "Lord of This World" and "Into The Void" harken back to Black Sabbath's traditional sound. There is still a trace of the downtempo bluesy grime in their songwriting, but it becomes apparent later on that 'Master of Reality' has progressed past what the band was doing the year before. In addition to "Sweet Leaf", "Solitude" is the other 'known' song from the album, an atmospheric ballad that sounds as if it would feel less lonesome on a prog rock record than anything. Here, Iommi showcases his flute and keyboard playing abilities, a far cry from the sludgy riffs he's best known for.

"Master of Reality" also features a pair of 'interlude' tracks that work best as experimental sketches. 'Embryo' is an eerie violin observation that may have worked well to space out the album's first side were it not so aimless. "Orchid" on the other hand is a nostalgic bit of acoustic plucking that works well to separate bouts of the band's typical heaviness. Without a doubt, the most controversial track here is "After Forever". Musically speaking, it's not such a departure from Black Sabbath's typical sound, sounding a touch more upbeat than their trademark gloom. Lyrically however, bassist Geezer Butler writes about his devotion to Christianity, even ridiculing those who may not agree with the Church. Whether or not this is a tongue-in-cheek jab at the accusations of Sabbath being Satanists, the preachy approach makes one wonder.

"Children of the Grave" is my favourite song off "Master of Reality". Although it shares the same style of sludgy riffs and over-the-top occult atmosphere with much of Sabbath's work up to this point, it stands out for its relatively intense rhythm, a gallop that would later be mirrored in Maiden's work. Pair that with an added layer of drums that sound like they could have been plucked out of a Voodoo ritual, and you have one of the album's hardest rocking tracks.

"Master of Reality" is an excellent continuation of what Black Sabbath were doing on the previous two records. Although not everything works to expectation, the more progressive edge they have here has opened plenty of doors for the band to explore. Overall, "Master of Reality" does not share the consistent string of 'essential' songs that "Paranoid" or even the self-titled did, but there is more than enough on Sabbath's third to give justice to their legacy as the godfathers of heavy metal.
The Angry Scotsman
After releasing 2 epic albums, (including the genre defining "Paranoid") the fathers of metal release their third, "Master of Reality"

Here Black Sabbath don't add anything to their sound, in fact they just reinforced it. Tony Iommi who hurt his fingers long before detuned his guitar to relieve the tension, the result was an incredibly heavy sound unlike even the Sabbath albums previously. Bassist Geezer Butler followed suit.

Musically, "Master of Reality" is what we expect of early Sabbath: Heavy, mid tempo songs, bluesy guitar solos, complete with punchy bass and Ward's powerful drumming. Ozzy's powerful wail tops it all off.

There are some breaks: the almost classical sounding "Embryo", the acoustic ballad "Orchid" both of which are segues, and the full length song "Solitude". They are all nice, and "Solitude" is really a great song. Quiet, peaceful, and relaxing...filled with light guitar, flute, piano, and soft vocals. A nice change of pace and outright great song.

This is followed by the riff-tastic "Into the Void" which brings up a point that really doesn't even need to be mentioned, the riffing. While a true band effort, this album, (like any good metal album) is based on the riffs. Iommi's classic heavy metal riffing defines the album, some which are the best you'll hear.

Lyrically, things stay in the same general area, though note: "Sweat Leaf" is a powerful heavy metal love song about the plant that was obviously near the hearts of the band, while "After Forever" is actually Christian song, of sorts...posing various questions and portraying it in a way that is not in your face, and actually a bit ponderous. A nod to Butler's faith but perhaps also to help shake the notion of Sabbath being satanists.

"Children of the Grave" is another song about war, though unlike many metal bands of later, it's an anti-war piece. While "War Pigs" was more focused on politicians and those responsible, "Children of the Grave" is a bit more "hippieish".

"So Children of the world, listen to what I say, if you want a better place to live in spread the words today. Show the world that love is still alive you must be brave, or you children of today are children of the grave." OK, ends on a dark note but can't you see some long hairs with acoustics gently singing that? I can, except it's Ozzy and over a chugging riff!

An absolutely classic heavy metal album, this has it all. Awesome riffs, solos, powerful vocals, great songs. Not much else to say. Even for the band "Master of Reality" has a very heavy, sludgy, stoned sound, built around slow to mid tempo songs, which has influenced countless bands: Of course every heavy metal band, especially doom and sludge metal, stoner rock and even grunge. A truly important album that is as good as its legacy is huge.

Five Stars
Warthur
The third Black Sabbath album saw the band attempt to diversify their sound a little, and so there's a bit less of the pure proto-doom sound of their debut on view here and a few more 70s hard rock cliches (Bill Ward even unleashes a little cowbell on Lord of This World). The album by and large succeeds simply by virtue of still being far heavier than anything else being produced at the time, with songs like Sweet Leaf, Lord of This World, and the thunderous Children of the Grave being particular highlights.

However, the album isn't perfect. It includes two small instrumental filler pieces - Embryo and Orchid - which I actually think are pretty decent (I can't think of Children of the Grave without having Embryo as a lead in to it), but others may take issue with. The band repeat the attempt to include a quiet song with the inclusion of Solitude, which unfortunately just isn't very good - it's over five minutes long and really needs to trim three of those minutes, it's a poor attempt at a flute-led melodic love ballad which fails to match up to the efforts of other bands working in the same vein (it reminds me a little of a poor attempt to mimic early Jade Warrior), and the lyrics are the sort of love poetry a self-important 13 year old might right.

Speaking of bad lyrics, the words to After Forever may irritate some listeners. The song itself is perfectly heavy, but the lyrics bash people who unthinkingly bash religion simply because they think it's the cool thing to do (which is fair enough - I'm an atheist myself but I think people should choose their religious beliefs because they've thought things through for themselves rather than to make a fashion statement), but then turns around and uncritically embraces Christianity as the answer to all man's ills.

The contradictory message ("Think for yourself and don't let others dictate your beliefs! By the way, Christ is the only answer.") will aggravate those who pay attention, so I advise just immersing yourself in the riffs and letting them flow over you. And the fact is that the downtuned sound of this album makes it the sludgiest disc of the Ozzy era. Like the debut album, Master of Reality deserves props simply because it introduced the world to a brand new sound which launched a whole subgenre or two of metal. It's just not quite perfect from beginning to end.
Pekka
Most bands entering their second recording year are usually still a bit wet behind the ears, but Black Sabbath's first year saw them release two of the most legendary rock albums ever made. And it was only just the beginning. The hit-and-miss debut and the all-brilliant Paranoid have a worthy successor in Master of Reality.

Lasting only about 35 minutes, this album is at the same time very versatile and very focused. Usually when I think about the album I see it as a massive onslaught of heavy riff mastery, but when I take a second thought I remember the surprisingly lightly rocking After Forever with its equally surprising lyrics about a loving God, the two acoustic instrumentals preceding some of the heaviest tracks of the album, Embryo and Orchid, and the planetcaravanish ballad Solitude. That's four of the eight tracks on the album that deviate from my first and foremost picture of this album's nature. I don't know why exactly, but it happens every time still after years of listening.

The somewhat weird and twisted Embryo leads to a classic riff parade called Children of the Grave, which among other things shows that some extra percussion can add a great deal with little effort. Orchid is Tony Iommi at his most beautiful, whereas the next track, Lord of This World is as heavy as anything on any Sabbath album. As are the yay-for-drugs anthem Sweet Leaf and the album closing, thundering Into the Void. Great riff after great riff after an even better riff, all the time.

The band is on fire, the tracks are killer, classic Sabbath worth hearing. A lot of times.
Time Signature
The lords of this world...

Genre: heavy metal

Yest another classic album by Black Sabbath, "Master of Reality" is not as heavy as the previous two albums, but it has a much dirtier sound and contains much more straightforward songs - still there is a certain darkness to it all.

Notable tracks are the opening track "Sweet Leaf" with its easily recognized main riff. "After Forever" is perhaps not as well known, but it contains a string of really nice metal guitar riff, each of which almost is a representative of its own present-day metal subgenre. "Children of the Grave" and the heavier "Lord of this World" and "Solitude" are among my favorite rock tunes, both of which, while quite different from each other, display the same darkness and all of them contain a plethora of engaging heavy guitar riffs.

This is yet another Black Sabbath album that should be part of any metal record collection.
bonnek
Master Of Reality is one of Sabbath's most convincing albums of the Ozzy years. It will appeal to modern metal audiences for its dense and heavy doom attack, but it has more to offer then just that. Most of the songs have gone beyond the heavy blues of the first album and contain more complex arrangements and even some folk influences.

Sweet Leaf kicks things into action. Vintage Iommi riffing and Ozzy shouting against it. Works brilliantly. Very similar to Iron Man but less silly and much more convincing. On After Forever a light folksy tune fights with ultra heavy churning metal sections. This diversity make them appear even heavier then they are. Embryo is a great folk tune again on clean electric guitar and serves as an excellent introduction to Children of the Grave. Great percussion work here.

Orchid sets off side two with a gentle acoustic track. The songs that follow represent the pinnacle of Sabbaths 70's work. The songs here set the benchmark for all future doom bands. Lord of This World does it in a slow funeral tempo, Solitude with gentle guitars and flutes, Into the Void with vintage head-banging staccato riffing and eerie chanting. The variation between slow and fast will become a template for nearly every future doom metal album.

I wouldn't claim Master of Reality to be better then the preceding album but it simply works a lot better for me then Paranoid, which lacked a bit of punch and was uneven in the songwriting. Master of Reality is a doom masterpiece!

Members reviews

ProgMetaller2112
With Master of Reality, Black Sabbath continued along the likes of very Heavy rock music. Yet again, on this album we get some more classic riffs from Geezer and Tony(listen to After Forever, Lord of This World and Into the Void, that is some heavy sh##). Also, with this album Black Sabbath continued their building legacy and influence which inspired many more Heavy Metal artists to come. To me, this(Master of Reality) continues the string of Classic Sabbath albums which eventually came to an end with Sabotage(but that's a different story and review).What else do I have to say about this album. This is Classic Sabbath and Classic Heavy Metal!! Another essential release
SouthSideoftheSky
The masters of my reality!

After the pioneering but not quite perfect debut album and the somewhat uneven and transitional Paranoid came the utterly brilliant Master Of Reality that fulfilled all the evident potential displayed on the two first albums. Master Of Reality thus completed the band's progression from electrified Blues Rock to innovative Heavy Metal and the end result is not only one of my favourite Black Sabbath albums, but one of my favourite albums of all time by any band!

Master Of Reality is a rather short album but not one second is wasted, the album is simply packed with classic material from beginning till end. From the echoed cough that opens Sweet Leaf to the strange but fantastic riff that sounds almost like it is being played backwards on Into The Void, this album is nothing short of brilliant! One thing that I find utterly breathtaking about this music is its great sense of urgency. There are an abundance of great musical ideas that are crammed into such a short timeframe that there is not one single second of the album where I feel that they could have many it any better by bringing in more ideas. Every musical idea, every riff, every melody, every solo is exploited only to its full potential and never more than that. They never settle into a groove for too long, but instead move on the next great riff, the next short solo, the next break so quickly that you will not know what hit you. They never repeat themselves more than necessary on this album.

In typical Black Sabbath fashion there are many tempo and mood changes in these songs. It is clearly a mistake to think that a song must be long in order to be progressive. Indeed, many Psychedelic and Blues Rock bands of the 60's and 70's had very long songs, but they were often not the slightest progressive. Nowhere on Master Of Reality do they revert to Blues Rock or Jazz improvisation. Everything is well structured and performed with precision, but still with all the space needed for the musicians to breathe. There is not one moment of dullness.

I could probably write a whole essay on what I like about this album, but in accordance with the nature of the album I will try to be brief. The key to understanding the immense quality of this album is that you must judge the album as a whole. The two short guitar instrumentals, Embryo and Orchid, function as perfect mood setters for the heavier tracks in between them. And they give the whole album a conceptual feel, where the whole is even greater than the sum of the parts.

Another essential ingredient to this album's masterpiece status for me is its great variation. The two short instrumentals and the slow, spacy ballad Solitude allows the listener to catch his breath between the heavier, faster songs. Solitude, with its heavy use of flute has something of a Camel feeling to it, circa Mirage!

Children of the Grave features very unconventional and interesting drumming by Bill Ward and Geezer's distinctive bass lines shine throughout the album. He has here a very loud and bottom bass sound. There are some (uncredited) very discrete keyboards on the album as well, most notably on After Forever but also on Children Of The Grave, that adds great effect.

Master Of Reality is a real classic and Black Sabbath's first (but not last) masterpiece!

Extremely recommended!
Sean Trane
After their first two stupendous albums, Sabs slightly altered their formula, shortened their tracks (none above 5 minutes), and sacrificed instrumental interplay in favour of tighter songwriting and further rifferama galore. A bland single sleeved artwork, announced the changes, but the main difference is that this album has a real production (as opposed to the two previous' relative absence of it, being much rawer) and IMHO, this actually hurts their creativity. But obviously this writer is in a minority as MOR became their best-seller and most influential album (along with Paranoid) and inspired generations of metal songwriters. By now, their move into a LA house and their gloomy semi-Satanist music and heavy drug use was attracting thousands of freaks at their concerts, including Hell's Angels crowned heads asking the band for audience and giving them their official stamp of approval. The drug use was even seeping inside the studios as Iommi spent entire days on end on this album.

Tight songwriting such as the Cannabis anthem Sweat Leaf (starting with a smoker's cough for intro) is Sabbath's signature for this album. But if the group had a blurred vision of the world, they had the occasional glimpse of insight as indicated by the other giant track of the album Children Of The Grave, addressed to their fans and their offcast behaviours, which was not the band's wishes. You can hear the Sabs hanging out on a sort of formula with Solitude being the obligatory slow track (as Planet Caravan and Sleeping Village had been), but there are the surprising acoustic tidbits Embryo and Orchid as well.

But to this reviewer, I can only think and cite another reviewer that said that Iommi was churning out the riffs by the ton with the warmth and care of a high-speed Xerox machine. I think that this album and Vol 4 (originally intended to be named Snowblind, but vetoed by the record company) reflect this quite well. As Butler and Iommi said later MOR was the beginning of their downfall through heavy drugs with Osbourne's erratic behaviour and Ward's Hepatitis lasting 6 months and a few cancelled tours.

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