Sunday, June 11, 2017

Master of Reality

If I were going to a desert island and could only take one Black Sabbath album with me, I'd take Master of Reality.

Other people would probably take the likes of Paranoid, their debut album, or Heaven and Hell, and while I have no problem acknowledging those albums as their best, Master is my personal favorite, the one I revisit the most.

It's a lean, mean record without a wasted moment. While the songs contain the complex arrangements we expect from the group, only the epic closer "Into the Void" breaches the six-minute mark. Sabbath capture some of their heaviest and eeriest sounds, the performances are inspired, and except for "Sweet Leaf" and "Children of the Grave," the rest of the album contains songs that don't get regular radio play or collected with the greatest hits.

Except from the opener "Sweet Leaf," an ode to marijuana, Master of Reality finds the Birmingham quartet fully probing the dark overtones of their previous albums while simultaneously calling out those who would "choose evil ways instead of love," as Ozzy sings from the point of view of the devil in "Lord of this World."

"Your world was made for you by someone above
But you choose evil ways instead of love.
You made me master of the world where you exist.
The soul I took from you was not even missed." 

The album is built on despairing for the state of the world whether it be because people reject God and love ("After Forever"), the threat of nuclear war ("Children of the Grave), or abandoning the Earth to find an un-poisoned new world ("Into the Void").

"Back on earth the flame of life burns low.
Everywhere is misery and woe.
Pollution kills the air, the land, the sea.
Man prepares to meet his destiny."

Tony Iommi uses a tuned-down guitar on the album, Geezer Butler matches him on bass, and this tandem gives the music a heavier, sludgier, throbbing sound. With Bill Ward's intense drumming, the songs are earth-shaking, and Ozzy's despondent vocals are the perfect foil.

But it's not all doom. Iommi plays a couple of acoustic instrumentals, "Embryo" and "Orchid." The former is rather sinister as it builds in intensity, leading into "Children of the Grave," and the latter feels like a lament. Ozzy gets involved with the heartache on the tender and soft "Solitude." He sounds vulnerable, not at all like the Prince of Darkness, and the backing flute feels rather fitting.

"My name it means nothing.
My fortune is less.
My future is shrouded in dark wilderness.
Sunshine is far away.
Clouds linger on."

Standout Songs
"Sweet Leaf" - Heavy, psychedelic, yet humorous
"Children of the Grave" -A galloping race to the apocalypse
"Lord of This World" - A swinging reminder not to trust Beelzebub
"Solitude" - Who knew Sabbath could be heartbreaking?
"Into the Void" - Epic climax to the album with soaring and heavy music

Favorite Moment
The opening of "Into the Void." Erupting from the softness out of "Solitude," it practically launches the listener into outer space.

Album Cover
The band name is purple lettering, and the album name in grey against a black backdrop. Functional, but it needs an image.

Track Listing
1) Sweet Leaf
2) After Forever
3) Embryo
4) Children of the Grave
5) Orchid
6) Lord of this World
7) Solitude
8) Into the Void 

Ozzy Osbourne - Vocals
Tony Iommi - Guitar
Geezer Butler - Bass
Bill Ward - Drums

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