BLACK SABBATH — Master Of Reality (review)

BLACK SABBATH — Master Of Reality album cover Album · 1971 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
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.
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