Metal Mofos’ Isaac Sauers gives us a holiday treat as he counts down 25 days till Christmas with 25 of his favorite must own metal and hard rock albums. Join us daily through December 25th to read the latest entry.
Black Sabbath released their greatest album Master of Reality July 21, 1971. This was the third release in their catalog. Their ever popular album Paranoid was released the previous year. How does a band top an album with such classic songs like “Iron Man”, “War Pigs”, and “Paranoid”, you ask? Simple. They just get a little heavier on the next album.
Guitarist Tony Iommi is undeniably a master of his craft and the penultimate riff maestro. He created the heavy metal guitar style. As some may know Tony lost the tips of his fingers in a freak accident on his final day of work at the his day job. He was going to be a musician full time, but then found himself without fingertips which are pretty essential to have for playing guitar. Tony crafted some thimble like items to put on the end of his fingers so he could play guitar again. He also used really light gauge strings and sometimes even banjo strings on his guitar so he could bend the strings easier with his thimble adorned fingertips.
By the time Master of Reality was being recorded in 1971 Tony figured out that down tuning the strings also made them feel lighter and were easier to bend. Pretty much every song on Master of Reality is not in standard tuning for a guitar. It’s much lower. This also gives the songs a thicker, heavier sound. Down tuning guitars has since become a staple for heavy music to be made heavier. The practice really picked up steam in the late 1980s when extreme metal was born, and it’s been a standard thing in metal ever since. It all started with Master of Reality. Just listen to the low end chug and tones of the riffs in my favorite Black Sabbath song, “Into the Void”. These riffs are so heavy, and the song came out 45 years ago!
Master of Reality also lays claim to two “firsts” in metal. With the album’s two opening tracks we have the first Stoner Metal song with “Sweet Leaf” and the first Christian Metal song with “After Forever”. Both gave birth to two separate entities within the world of heavy metal. “Sweet Leaf” is an ode to marijuana while “After Forever” promotes taking Christianity seriously. Great lyrics from bass player Geezer Butler here.
Black Sabbath is known for doing a really nice slow song now and then. It started with “Planet Caravan” on the Paranoid album and people love that song. Pantera even covered it. It’s not their best slow song though. “Solitude” from Master of Reality is. Tony Iommi plays multiple instruments on this song including a flute! Ozzy Osbourne’s soft, soulful vocal performance on this song is very haunting, and I love listening to it. He wouldn’t ever sing like that again. It has a melody like a song you would hear in some movie that takes place in the Middle Ages.
How could I not mention the song “Children of the Grave”? Ozzy has been quoted as saying this is his favorite Black Sabbath song. He has performed it with his solo band over the years as well. That great palm muted riff from Tony Iommi is again highly influential on the world of heavy metal. It’s just the way metal is played.
It could be said Master of Reality is the first true heavy metal album. Black Sabbath’s first two albums started it all, but Master of Reality is true blue (black?) heavy metal as we know it today.
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