BLACK SABBATH — Master Of Reality (review)

BLACK SABBATH — Master Of Reality album cover Album · 1971 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
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!
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