Masterpiece: Master Of Reality


[Today: Black Sabbath deals out some doom…]

Sabbath - album

The scariest horror movie monsters are those deliberate, lumbering instruments of death like Frankenstein, the Terminator, and that gang of zombies from Night Of The Living Dead. These creatures were never going to outrun you, but one way or another they were going to end up with their hands around your throat. Much of Black Sabbath’s music sounds like that – abnormally strong, consumed with darkness, and fully intent on destruction.

Sabbath made seven consecutive albums worth of mini-epic horror flicks, starring Tony Iommi’s guitar and Ozzy Osbourne’s pipes. Ozzy is easily the greatest heavy metal singer of all-time, simply because he never lost control of his vocals, never lapsed into operatic silliness, and always sounded like the voice of doom itself. Meanwhile Iommi played his guitar like a man wielding a sledgehammer. If Iommi’s riffs were the sound of a broken bell tolling within a burning church, then Ozzy was the creature standing among the rubble, licking blood from his fangs and savoring every drop.

On Sabbath’s third studio album, Master Of Reality, they dipped their sound in sludge and made the heaviest album of their very, very heavy career. In his November 1971 review of the album, uber-critic Lester Bangs observed that “Rock & Roll has always been noise, and Black Sabbath have boiled that noise to its resinous essence.”

Oddly, Sabbath were most often compared to Grand Funk Railroad in their day – proving both that they were critically misunderstood and utterly without peer. Nonetheless, Master Of Reality is a massively influential album that spawned a thousand metal zombies, who rose from their shallow graves to stagger into the grey sunrise of the 80’s.

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17 Responses to “Masterpiece: Master Of Reality”

  1. World B. Furr Says:

    I bought this on cassette in either 7th or 8th grade, can’t remember for sure. I do remember playing it on the family stereo that night and being absolutely mesmerized at the intro to song 1, Sweet Leaf; in which someone is coughing uncontrollably, presumably after inhaling said Sweet Leaf. When my dad got home that night I demanded he come straight into living room to hear this remarkable stroke of genius. He was clearly less enthused than I, to say the least.

    Nevertheless, one of the most influential albums of my life. And, without doubt, the greatest example of what Sabbath’s lyrical message was all about. Two of my personal favorites: “Would you like to see the Pope on the end of a rope, do you think he’s a fool?” “Show the world that love is still alive, you must be brave. Or you children of today are children of the grave.”


  2. Metal Foo Says:

    “*easily* the greatest heavy metal singer of all-time”? Dude, reading your blog is like watching Bill Walton play-by-play in the NBA playoffs.

    I see your Ozzy and raise you a Bon Scott, but – Judas Priest! Rob Halford can belt out the lyrics too. I could make an argument for James Hetfield (Metallica) and – I’m not kidding – Axl Rose.

    This doesn’t even count the people who miss on a techicality because their music wasn’t *really* metal. I’m talking about Chris Cornell, Robert Plant, Hendrix, Henry Rollins and – my personal favorite – H.R. from Bad Brains.

    I’ll accept Ozzy as a founding father, but he’s not *easily* the best ever.

  3. James Osterberg Says:

    Hold on there, dk. I’m as a big an Ozzy fan as the next fellow, dk, but calling him the greatest heavy metal singer of all time invites the wrath of Metal Foo and others. Never lost control of his vocals? You mean, until 1990, right? Have you tried listening to Under Cover? His vocal tracks sound as processed as a bag of Cheetos, for Cripe’s sake.

    That said, I never measured Ozzy’s contributions by his range or the quality of his voice. What he brought to the Sabbath albums (and his early solo work) was that purely melancholic angst that connected with equally melancholic and mulletted young men all over the world. (God knows I was one of them, playing Changes over and over again as I fantasized about breaking up with a cheerleader who never dated me in the first place. Good times.)

    As for MOR, this 40-something old fart is not ashamed to confess that he still calls up tracks like Children of the Grave for his workouts now and then. Because the power is still there, baby. And no Ozzmosis can take it away.

  4. devil dick Says:

    now ur talking my language!

    sabbath blood sabbath is the apogee of ALL metal & hard rock singers, period.

    they dipped their sound in sludge and made the heaviest album of their very, very heavy career.

    Tr00)))), Kvlt & d00m)))) The bench mark of “HEAVY” albums…. the bottom end is so thick on this its like Nell Carter and William the fridge Perry combined!

    metal foo must have ate some bad shrooms…. hendrix a GREAT singer? he practically “spoke” his lyrics. Rollins? PA-LEEZE! Hetfield? Ya Right-AH! (typed in hetfield eqse) Axl…. no, not so much. maybe most annoying whine of all time…. jeeze. Bon was a great front man and great lyricist but SINGER?

    Bon Scott = Coffee Grinder….

    No doubt Ozzy is a goof now days but at one time there was magic in the air….

    *easily* the best ever. Yep.

  5. dkpresents Says:

    Fair enough Foo, you make a good point. Bad Brains rocks the house, but I’m still picking Ozzy.

    Mr. Osterberg, you also make a fine point. Ozzy did eventually slip into self-parody, but not until after the Randy Rhoads era. However, everything he laid down with Sabbath was beyond solid.

    Easy on Bon Scott there DD – I happen to think Bon was a damned fine singer. However, I wouldn’t necessarily count him as “Heavy Metal”. Perhaps I’m splitting hairs, but…

  6. eyeeatmusic Says:

    Only other singers that can be placed in this Greatest “HEAVY METAL” category are Halford which was already said

    But what about Ronnie James Dio who still carrys the torch to this day, The Heaven & Hell tour Proves it

    Black Sabbath In my Book is the Greatest Metal Band of all Time and Ozzy Vocals up to 78 is dead on

    Great Post Sir

  7. sandylove Says:

    I have to disagree with you my friend… I was CONCEIVED through a metal VAGINA… and OZZY may be be a great singer… but as of late, all in all his voice sounds like a BUCKET of steamin CRAP, we just saw him play last Ozzfest, and I think I rather have listened to to cats fighting than that MESS… as my friend up top… what about Dio… the man is almost 70 and still sounds like a MASTER of metal, what about King Diamond who still RULES, Rob Halford??? Paul Dianno…BRUCE DICKENSON!!!!… Paul Stanley???… Eric Adams???, Mike Oliveri, Lemmy???????… very well written though… but can’t say that I completely agree!!!

  8. James Osterberg Says:

    If I may go off on a bit of a tangent here and split a different hair entirely, I think it’s wrong to classify Bon Scott merely as a singer. He had a big hand in writing the songs for ACDC (including many of the tracks on Back in Black). The diminished quality of the post-Scott albums (and Brian Johnson’s horrible singing) are all the proof I need.

    But dk is right IMHO to be wary of classifying Scott as Heavy Metal. A rocker and bluesman indeed, but comparing him to the scorching likes of Dickinson or Halford feels like a shotgun marriage to me.

    Either way, I don’t think Ozzy had that same influence on Sabbath’s songwriting. Tony and Butler seem to be driving that train (Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules kick ass without the Ozzman). Ozzy (or Sharon) have the good sense to collaborate with some excellent producers and guitarists and let their talents shape the sound.

    It kills me to think of how great the Rhoads/Osbourne alliance could have been had the former lived long enough to shave.

  9. dkpresents Says:

    Jesus, I took a graduate level philosophy class on Wittgenstein in college that didn’t have discussions this punishing.

    Sandy, by process of elimination I have to assume that your mother is Lita Ford…

  10. sandylove Says:

    :)… NICE… Don’t get me wrong, Ozzy WAS the man, Still Ronnie j. Dio, I WON’T say better…but the DEEPER side of Sabbath… to me anyway

  11. World B. Furr Says:

    Scream for me, Long Beach!

  12. James Osterberg Says:

    Quick Dio Story:

    Dane County Coliseum, Mob Rules Tour. Something goes wrong with the power and the show comes to a screeching halt. The band leaves the stage. Minutes pass. The mob grows restless. Dio swaggers out onto stage to kill some time. The crowd roars. Someone throws a joint on stage. Dio picks it up and without missing a beat, addresses the masses. “Correct me if I’m wrong,” he says, holding up the joint, “But wasn’t Madison, Wisconsin the first city in this country to make marijuana possession merely a misdemeanor?” The place goes bananas. I had yet to discover the healing qualities of pot but I screamed like a fifth-grader at a New Kids on the Block concert. I was never so proud of my home town.

  13. Berkley Pissbag Says:

    Egg Burrito

  14. dkpresents Says:

    If I’m not mistaken, Mr. Pissbag is referring to the following colorful story that appears on page 62 of Motley Crue’s band bio “The Dirt”. In the immortal words of Vince Neil:

    “After the Rainbow each night, we’d walk to Santa Monica Boulevard, where all the young rockers and actors who never made it were pimping themselves. We’d scrounge up enough money to buy an egg burrito from Noggles. Then we’d bite the end off and stick our dicks into the warm meat to cover up the smell of pussy so that our girlfriends didn’t know we were fucking anything stupid or drunk enough to get into Tommy’s van.”

    Ahhhh, metal…

  15. Arlo Chingaderas Says:


  16. James Cabral Says:

    H.R. is pretty rad.

  17. Teeny Tiny Tunes - The Cover Art « dk presents… Says:

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