The Importance of Being Metal: Black Sabbath-Master of Reality
Black Sabbath-Master of Reality
1971; Vertigo; Island Studios, London, England
1. Is It Any Good?
This is going to be a refreshing change of pace for me, because there are no qualifiers I have to place before I start talking about this album. No "While this has merit, it's downfall is" or "Many people look on this album unfavorably, but" or "It could be considered a masterpiece if only". No. None of that. Master of Reality is, as a matter of fact, a bonafide metal masterpiece. No ifs, ands or buts about it. This is the real deal, an enduring classic, a doomstomping Goliath trampling through the realms of popular music and into the imagination of the frustrated, the depressed, the just-plain-fed-up and it is a glowering signpost that states, "This is where heavy begins and this is also where heavy ends." This is the motherlode, folks.
It's incredibly difficult to single out one particularly wonderful thing about this album-even the two filler songs, "Embryo" and "Orchid", are entertaining songs in their own rights. I suppose if there was one thing you could single out about this album that makes it so masterful, it would be the unbelievable texture and weight that flows through every song. This album feels heavy. It has an ability to excite and crush simultaneously that is unlike anything I've experienced with any other piece of music. There's an energy in Master of Reality that subsequent doom metal bands have never been able to bottle.
I don't mean to say that this album is oppressive with it's weight, or that it creates a sense of dread. It does not. It excites. It fills the listener with a desire to run and scream and smash things. "Children of the Grave" is the best example of this phenomena of severity mixed with childish jubilation-an anti-war anthem that tops even the band's own "War Pigs", the lyrics and the grounded, rumbling bassline instill the feeling that the earth is about to crack open at the seams while the guitar line compells the listener to dive into the faultline and try to stop it. It's impossible to sit still while listening to this song, as it is for the majority of the album as a whole.
"Sweet Leaf" and "After Forever" are fine album openers-they certainly set the tone for the rest of the album, the former song being slow and thundering and the latter being quick and thundering. (There is a lot of thundering on this album) The real meat, however, lies in the second half, beyond even "Children of the Grave". It lives in two songs, "Lord of this World" and "Into The Void". They are both equally important and impressive and both of them are two of the most stomach-rumbling, planet-crumbling songs ever put to tape. "Lord of this World" is a sneering, mocking anthem of hate and greed, a chiding speech from the Devil about what fools we mortals are to follow his ways. It's impossible not to feel some sort of looming presence hiding in the track itself-it is slow, it is crushing and it is an absolute leviathan of a song, the kind that can make it so that you're down on your knees screaming "LORD OF THIS WO-ORLD! EVIL POSSESSER!" along with Ozzy before you even know what's happening.
Separating this song from the last and most important song on the album is "Solitude", a ballad that's more than a touch indulgent, possibly weepier than is called for, but it is a kind of "we've all been there before" sort of lament about lost love, and it's despairing nature doesn't break very far from the overall feel of the album, so it can hardly be called something "amiss" with the work as a whole, even if it is somewhat unexpected. And it makes the following song so much richer due to the complete 180 it takes from this soft interlude.
"Into the Void". The centerpiece. The testament to human self-destruction, the cosmic space opera of despair and desolation. The holy beast, the golden chalice that rests at the top of an already magnificent album. "Into the Void" is, quite simply, a colossus. It is an enormous song. It takes up physical space in the room when it is played. The song is not about a rocket to the sun, the song is a rocket to the sun. It is a perfect piece of music, one of the very few, one where absolutely nothing can be changed to make it better-the lyrics, the drums, the guitar or that absolutely glorious bass line. It is a gut punch of a song, a wailing god to which all things heavy must pray and give tribute. It is doom, personified sonically.
Master of Reality is a Titan of music. It is a collection of anthems dedicated to the evil and deceit that presents itself as the Devil but shows up in every human soul. I haven't even talked about how amazingly, consistently wonderful the musicianship is, or how Ozzy's voice compliments the lyrics perfectly, or how Black Sabbath never really writes "good" lyrics, just engaging, enthralling ones that pull you into the song like a black hole. I won't talk about these things, because I've already gushed far too much, and this has already gone on far too long. Just know this:
This album will destroy you. In the best way possible.
2. Is It "Influential?"
Master of Reality is almost single handedly responsible for creating the genre known as doom metal. The bass lines and riffs launched thousands upon thousands of teenagers to try to reach the same depths of heaviness. Without this album, decades of metal music would have been irrevocably changed for the worse. It is unquestionably one of the most influential albums of all time, in any genre.
Is It A Good Entry Point For Beginners?
This is one of the places where it all started-this is the blueprint for almost every generation of metal to come after it. If you are to understand where metal comes from and what it's all about than you need to hear this album. It's nothing short of required listening for the novice metal listener.
If that's not enough of a reccomendation, than how about this: Master of Reality is the album that single-handedly turned me into a metalhead.
As if you couldn't tell from the first section of this post.