An album of grinding riffs easily living upto the heavy reputation Sabbath had acquired for themselves. Yet, again Sabbath recorded quickly, in and out the studio. Emerging with a mere thirty four minutes of music including two brief instrumentals, were the band running out of ideas, though? The strains within the band caused by relentless touring, promotion and recording without any kind of break was beginning to tell on individuals, yet hadn’t caused any overt outward problems as far as onlookers could tell. ‘Master Of Reality’ was very much seen as business as usual and repeats the formula of the 1st two albums, although with a couple of differences. We’ve got faster songs, we’ve seemingly less creative input from the rhythm section as far as the overall sound is concerned. Sabbath would always jam and write songs during rehearsals, Tony Iommi providing the creative impetus with his inventive riffing. This time around however it appears the riffs are in search of songs. Too often ‘Master Of Reality’ seems to lack the depth the previous two albums had. Even Ozzy sounds lack-lustre here, although perhaps that’s just down to the fact he’s not as high in the mix. Proto-type grunge? Well, that’s one label ‘Master Of Reality’ has acquired. There’s certainly some truth in that. One thing that popped into my mind however was the sound of Metallica, circa 1991, when the went globally massive. The debt Metallica owe Black Sabbath is clear, but particularly so it seems to me when listening to this album. As an aside, commercially ‘Master Of Reality’ did very well, top ten in both the US and UK and ‘going gold’ on advance sales alone.
‘Sweat Leaf’ opens the record in familiar Sabbath style. A five/six minute long tune based on a dirty, repeating guitar riff, the rhythm section pound away as loudly as ever as Ozzy sings in a suitably mischeivous manner and sounds like he’s enjoying the lyrics. The two brief instrumentals are strange things, mood pieces, fair enough. They don’t really showcase Iommi’s talents particularly well though, when compared to his playing on the ‘proper’ tunes. As interludes, they break up the album in a similar fashion to such interludes on previous Sabbath LPs. Hardly essential when taken by themselves, though. What is essential is the dazzling array of stupendous guitar riffs this album presents us with. ‘After Forever’ has just such a great sound and the riff, oh that riff!! The way the sound spins around the stereo spectrum is wonderful too, especially appreciated when listening through headphones. Sterling guitar work throughout the tune, naturally. Iommi, you tell em’. He ‘tells them’ with his riff work all over the place. ‘Children Of The Grave’ is built on his driving and purposeful riffage. As is ‘Lord Of The World’, ‘Into The Void’. Both great band instrumental tracks with the rantings of Ozzy on top ( or slightly underneath, as the mix more accurately presents us with ). ‘Into The Void’ is the tune that most resembles the sound Metallica would base a good portion of their career upon, whilst ‘Solitude’ is another attempt at producing a ‘Planet Caravan’, only not quite as captivating this time around. Where does it all leave us? Well, an eight track album with five wonderful riffing guitar tunes, three slices of filler and the feeling we’ve been slightly short-changed, if i’m being honest. Yet, there’s something here that Sabbath hadn’t presented before and besides, a good rock n roll album that’s fun and contains plenty of genuine riffs is always going to be a decent listen.