Quick Thoughts on Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality

A few quick thoughts to share the love for Black Sabbath’s 1971 album, Master of Reality, one of the all-time great dinosaur sludge rock albums. I never thought “Catholic Stoner Rock” was a real thing, yet here it is. Its sound seems to have inspired every guitar band on the planet in the 1980s and 1990s, especially Seattle. “Into the Void” is basically the birth of Soundgarden, and there’s a guitar solo snippet on “Sweet Leaf” that always reminds me of Kurt Cobain on In Utero.

The album’s structure is very fascinating with short musical interludes between the monster tracks. Production is dry yet reveals subtle depths in the background, echoes and flowing and resonating into space. The guitars have a heavy crunch and hazy decay that I adore. It certainly sounds “heavy” yet avoids the cliched clean tones of most hard rock and metal. The music is loud but doesn’t try to roll you over with sheer volume or slap you upside the head. It surely doesn’t sound like any rock album from 1971 and it probably was received as an oddity in those days. In any case, I find this album to be simultaneously energizing, invigorating and relaxing. Its moods are varied, subtle, showing a musical maturity from the iconic Paranoid album that reveals itself after dozens or hundreds of listens.

Right now, I’m finishing the Rhino LP reissue which sounds wonderfully crunchy and deep. My phono cartridge is a Denon DL-103R, which I absolutely love. Paired with a Pro-Ject Tube Box SE II and Sony Biotracer, it’s a killer combination.

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