Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Black Sabbath Master Of Reality (1971)


“Master of Reality” is the epitome of Black Sabbath’s monolithic riff-fuelled rock. If you want music with heavy, bluesy and infectious riffs, melodic vocals and breath-taking guitar solos, then look no further than “Master of Reality”.

This is one of those special albums where every track has become a classic over the years. It all starts with the fantastic “Sweet Leaf”, which was initially my favourite song on the album. The song kicks the album off in style and lays down the foundations perfectly. The opening cough/splutter sample gives meaning to the title (and sets up one of the most prominent themes and influences for the band – marijuana).

This was truly the start of stoner rock. Please don’t come to the conclusion that this stupefies the music in any way – an accusation I have heard many a time. Yes, this album is a great experience when ripped, as are the best of the modern day stoner albums, but don’t be put off thinking a sober state will forge no rewards. Bong or no bong, this is one of the best rock albums ever made.

The riffs. Let me talk about some of the timeless riffs on this album. Riffs that over the years have become massively influential and classic in every sense of the word. It is through no chance or overreaction that people nowadays refer to some guitar riffs and leads as “Sabbath-esque” or “Sabbathy”.

The grand onslaught of these riffs starts with the simplistic and contagious lead to “Sweet Leaf”, one of my favourite riffs ever conceived. The glory to this riff, and with the majority of Tony Iommi’s genius craft, is the simplicity – sacrificing complex timings, extra ghost notes and fancy finger work for simple motifs.

The emphasis is put firmly on execution and groove. Take for example the riff changeups in the fine closer “Into The Void”, going from the fine rolling and laid-back intro riff to some ferocious muted riffing, all complemented perfectly by Ozzy’s high and melodic vocals. All of this combines to make one of the album’s finest moments. Then there’s “Children of the Grave” which stretches the simplicity to a basic rolling note, repeated in a galloping time signature, augmented by the occasional menacing chord progression.

This song was really ahead of its time, paving the way for the galloping marches of the finest Iron Maiden. What makes these riffs even better is the structure of the songs, which are intelligent and keep the various riffs fresh. For example, the changeups in “After Forever” evolve around a repetitive lead riff which gives way to various themes and new riffs, but always returns to retain the original flow and groove. Call them stoners, but this is intelligent song writing, and something ensued throughout the album.

So the song writing is clever. It keeps the riffs fresh and interesting and manages to hold the fantastic groove. However, it is the overall writing and structuring of the album as a whole that I find most impressive. The balance of “Master of Reality” is perfect and superior to any of their other albums. There are no overly long songs, as all are between 5 and 7 minutes. The effect of this gives the album a special kind of flow that is often lacking in their other releases. “Embryo” and “Orchid” are short little pieces that act as introductions rather than fillers, and again retain the sense of flow as they are not too long or boring.

Mention should of course go to Ozzy Osbourne. In my opinion Sabbath simply isn’t Sabbath without Ozzy on the vocals. His voice has become one of the most distinctive and acclaimed in rock history, and rightly so. He has what all the best rock singers have – the ability to hit the right notes, often quite high ones, and an idiosyncratic style that is instantly recognisable. The Black Sabbath sound is rounded off perfectly by this master vocalist, best highlighted by his inspired deliveries on “Children of the Grave” and “Into The Void”.

Any fan of rock music should enjoy this album. It has every ingredient that makes rock so enjoyable – powerful and inspired vocals, stunning guitar solos and riffs, solid bass playing and some stellar drumming. Black Sabbath at the pinnacle of their career.

June 20, 2013 Posted by | Black Sabbath Master Of Reality | | Leave a comment

Black Sabbath 13 (2013)


Ozzy Osbourne has stated multiple times that ’13′ could possibly be the most important album of his career. With such a fabled discography preceding ’13,’ both with Black Sabbath and his solo career, Ozzy’s claim is not one to be taken lightly, and although ’13′ may not be the greatest album to ever be attributed to Ozzy’s name, the disc is a definite success for Black Sabbath.

The build up to ’13′ made it one of the most anticipated metal albums of the 21st century. Released 19 months after the original Sabbath lineup announced their reunion, the album almost didn’t happen at all. The departure of drummer Bill Ward and cancer diagnosis of guitarist Tony Iommi seemingly stopped Sabbath in their tracks. Cancer, however, didn’t impede Iommi from writing some of the sickest guitar work of his career, with an extra-bright light tilted toward the riff master’s virtuosic soloing.

The disc begins with ‘End of the Beginning,’ a solid track reminiscent of the song ‘Black Sabbath’ once the verse kicks in. The intro riff of ‘End of the Beginning,’ which is stretched out for nearly three minutes, isn’t mind-blowing, but Iommi’s riff still retains its beefy feel before he really starts going to work. The remainder of the eight-minute track is a controlled, yet step-on-the-gas Sabbath piece as Iommi’s lead and backing guitar lines keep the album’s kickoff track on a steady course.

Next up is the five-star monster ‘God is Dead?,’ which ventures into doom territory as Sabbath delivers one of their heaviest and creepiest cuts to date. Special attention should be directed at bassist Geezer Butler and his immense bass tone, accented well by Brad Wilk‘s drumming throughout, allowing ‘God is Dead?’ to personify Black Sabbath’s intensions to keep a signature sound in tact while injecting some fresh energy into its core. ‘God is Dead?’ captures a more primitive side of the brain, possessing the listener to float along during slower parts while punching whatever may be within an arm’s length during Iommi’s bigger, more energetic licks.

’13′ begins to slow down a bit as six tracks remain. ‘Loner’ starts off with a fairly generic riff and a take-it-or-leave-it verse, but picks up immensely as the track takes a more melodic turn. Iommi once again brings the song’s quality to an impressive level as the guitarist connects piece after piece with skillful precision. Ozzy’s howling vocals during Iommi’s softer parts also command a well deserved tip of the hat (or bowler).

‘Zeitgeist’ is Sabbath’s ballad within ’13,’ harnessing the use of Middle-Eastem percussion, wind instruments and a distorted filter on Ozzy’s voice. Iommi’s rich guitar blends from the slow, ‘Changes’-paced track into ‘Live Forever’ — a better-than-average piece which makes good use of Iommi’s ability to keep a song flowing. Ozzy once again adds a great deal of character to the piece, this time honing a more poetic touch with the lyrics: “They say you see your life go flashing by / Cold dark endless nights / To burn in Hell or bathe in everlight” and “I don’t want to live forever, but I don’t want to die.”

‘Damaged Soul’ and ‘Dear Father’ round off the record as big Iommi riffs and wild shredding continue to create a swamp vs. hurricane dichotomy. ‘Dear Father’ in particular is home to an especially trudging Iommi / Butler riff, giving the duo a break from stomping through their doomsday landscape.

As an album, ’13′ belongs to Tony Iommi. Ozzy, Geezer and Brad Wilk all have their moments throughout the album, but when it comes to consistency and meteoric impact, Iommi’s work is the predominant factor of why Sabbath fans will sink their teeth into ’13.’ We all expect the world from Black Sabbath, and after a 19-month wait and 35 years without hearing a full release from Ozzy, Tony and Geezer, anything less than classic Sabbath is doomed to show its cracks. ’13′ isn’t a perfect album, but it’s a damn good one; saturated with piece after piece of pure Iommi brilliance.

June 18, 2013 Posted by | Black Sabbath 13 | | Leave a comment