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Black Sabbath - Master Of Reality CD (album) cover


Black Sabbath


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4.06 | 708 ratings

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4 stars If heaviness and arse-kicking power are your primary criteria for judging Sabbath albums, then this is not only Black Sabbath's best album, but probably one of the best albums ever made. This is the album where Tony's old fingertips injury inspired him to tune his guitar down two whole steps and accidentally stumble into the lowest, most grumbling and monstrous guitar tone that the rock world had yet seen. Furthermore, Tony apparently liked this tone so much that he crafted all of the rockers in such a way that this tone would be the most outstanding feature of the songs. Every "conventional" Sabbath number here is a lumbering, mid-tempo beast, driven by a (usually) massive set of riffs that pound the tone right through my skull whether I want it to or not. In short, it's basically a Sabbath lover's dream come true.

But dagnabbit, while I may like a skull-splitting, grungey piece of heavy riffage from time to time, I just can't get ecstatic about hearing this much of it at once. When I'm listening to heavy rock, I like speed and rushes of adrenaline and moody guitar solos and, well, everything that In Rock by Deep Purple has to offer. Or, to put my thoughts back in BS terms, I like my 70's metal albums to have stuff like "Paranoid" or "Black Sabbath" on them. Each of the heavy songs on here is nice to listen to on its own, yes (though "Lord of this World" doesn't strike me as particularly wonderful), but I'm not thrilled about having them all strung together as these are.

It also kinda hurts that the moments where the band actually takes a break from its usual shtick aren't exactly of the highest quality. "Embryo" barely counts as a track, as it's just a 30 second guitar-bass duet of some chord sequence Tony probably put together after reading a couple of chapters in a book on music theory. "Orchid" is a 90 second acoustic piece that's mildly pleasant, with well-done moody basslines giving some depth, but that also doesn't make much of an effort to develop the melody (if a couple of chords can be called a melody). And, well, the lone conventional ballad, "Solitude," doesn't even come close to filling my desire for another "Planet Caravan"-quality soft number. I'm sorry, but flutes or no flutes, Ozzy just doesn't have the kind of voice that can move me when singing soft ballads, and the song suffers accordingly.

So ultimately, I'm left with the monstrous riffs, which (despite my whining) are enough to bring the album up to a low **** in my eyes. Since there's only so many ways to describe songs that are all based around a few riffs (and almost NOTHING else), I will now, instead of describing the songs, describe the other aspect of the album that people tend to mention a lot; the lyrics. After the opening pro-pot anthem, "Sweet Leaf" (my favorite of the lot, possibly because it comes first), we have a nice string of anti-Satan and, sometimes, pro- Christian lyrics. Yup, "After Forever" was Christian Metal long before CCM came into vogue, with such silly oft-quoted gems as, "Could it be you're afraid of what your friends might say if they knew you believe in God above? They should realize before they criticize that God is the only way to love!" And as for the others, well, we have an ode to hippie-love ("Children of the Grave"), a condemmnation of those who made Satan more powerful than God in the world ("Lord of this World"), and a look forward to being out of Satan's world and in heaven ("Into the Void"). Debates have been ongoing since this album came out about whether these lyrics were just as ironic as the band's Satanic trappings or whether they were a show of sincere admiration for Christianity, but honestly, since the God-oriented lyrics are more or less as banal as the Satan-oriented lyrics, I find the whole thing kinda silly.

In short, I do like the album quite a bit, but I just can't get as worked up about it as a lot of people seemingly can. If you live and die by riffs and heaviness, though, get it as fast as you can.

PS: For some reason, my copy has Into the Void as the seventh track and ends with Solitude (different from everybody else's copy, apparently), thus having one of the most spectacularly out-of-character endings to an album I've ever heard.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |


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