Black Sabbath’s Masterpiece “Master of Reality”



Master of Reality is the third studio album released by the godfathers of metal, Black Sabbath.  The album was released on July 21, 1971 and is said to be the roots of doom, stoner, and sludge metal.  The record peaked at number five on the UK Albums Chart and number eight on the US Billboard 200.  This album is the staple of Sabbath and is widely considered as their best ever.  With the infamous original line up of Ozzy, Geezer, Bill Ward, and Toni Iomi, the album has a raw, original nostalgic feeling about it.  Sabbath were still in their early days, still on the rise of one of the biggest and best bands in the world.  The record was produced by Rodger Bain, released on Vertigo Records, and tracks in at a playtime of 34 minutes and 29 seconds consisting of eight songs.  The front of the album is black with “Black Sabbath Master of Reality” written on top of the black background in the notorious font that anyone around the world can instantly recognize.

Sweet Leaf

The intro track to the album is a love song addressed to marijuana and it is a pioneer song in the stoner rock genre.  The song begins with a tape loop of Toni Iomi coughing from a joint he and Ozzy were smoking.  The band was using cannabis very heavily at the time and that was the inspiration for the song.  Iomi says that he wrote the track in the studio upon returning from Dublin.  He picked up a pack of cigarettes called Sweet Afton and on the top of the pack read, “The Sweetest Leaf You Can Buy” and thus titled the track, “Sweet Leaf.”  Some would call this track the anthem of marijuana users and with good cause.  The riffs are sludgy, the drums are loud, and the lyrics express the band’s great love and appreciation for the plant.  The track was written by all four members, and Geezer and Ozzy were the source for the lyrics.  The track started the album off very strong and is renowned as one of Sabbath’s very best.

After Forever

This track on the album focuses on believing and loving through God.  Sabbath were talked about and said to be Satanists and due to this title being false, they wrote a song about Christianity and God.  The song was written by Geezer who was a Christian.  The pro-Christian song was used to combat the allegations of Satanism in Sabbath.  As many metal bands have done, Sabbath used Satan and Satanic imagery for entertainment purposes only, not because they were actually Satanists.  The song may have combated some of the Satanists arguments, but the band was still seen as Satanic and evil by many.


“Embryo” is just an instrumental that runs at 27 seconds long.  It was written by Toni Iomi and his guitar is the only instrument on the track.  It is the first of two instrumentals on the album and it plays right before “Children of the Grave.”  The instrumental also serves as a build up into “Children of the Grave” as it transitions perfectly into the track.

Children of the Grave

This track is another notorious staple of Sabbath.  The track speaks on nuclear warfare, a topic common in Sabbath’s music due to the early 70s, and how the youth needs to change how politicians are corrupt and just want to spread warfare.  Sabbath is saying the children of the world need to grow away from warfare and spread peace and love.  This track is similar to “War Pigs” and “Electric Funeral” from the band’s previous album Paranoid and also “Wicked World” from the band’s debut album, the self titled Black Sabbath.  


“Orchid” is the second instrumental on the album.  The track comes right after “Children of the Grave,” sandwiching the track between two instrumentals with its counterpart, Embryo.  This instrumental features Geezer on bass, Bill Ward on drums, and Iomi on guitar.  The guitar is played on an acoustic and Iomi said, “I never played acoustic that much at all really.  I don’t even remember where we did that track, to be honest.  I think the idea on the album was to have a bit of light and shade and relax it from the heavier stuff.”

Lord of This World

The sixth track on the album and one of the more “doomy” tracks of Sabbath’s discography refers to Satan being the “Lord of This World.”  The track is talking about how in the world we live in many people decide to choose evil instead of love.  Sabbath is saying that the majority of the world is willing to sell their souls for earthly and materialistic possessions that will be futile when they die.  When asked about the track, Ozzy said “It’s actually called ‘Awkward’– it’s a song about Bill!”  Geezer said, “That was our one and only Satan song, it’s about Old Nick.”


This track is self explanatory by reading the title.  The track is about being alone in isolation after ending a relationship with someone.  Ozzy had his voice added with a delay effect to provide the effect of a second vocal track. Ozzy sounds very different on this track compared to others, and some might not even recognize his voice as it is very soft and melancholy.  This track shows the many talents of Iomi as well as he plays not only the guitar but also the flute and the piano.  Iomi stated, “It might be the first love song we ever recorded.”

Into the Void

This track serves as the outro to the album and is quite possibly the best song on the album.  The track talks about man fleeing from earth in a dystopian future in order to escape the fighting and havoc on earth and find a new world where peace and happiness can be found.  Many say that this track is a forbearer of stoner metal as the song has guitar riffs that feature a slow, sludgy sound.  When talking to Guitar World Iomi said, “We tried recording the song in a couple different studios because Bill just couldn’t get it right.  Whenever that happened, he would start believing that he wasn’t capable of playing the song.  He’d say, ‘To hell with it– I’m not doing this!’ There was one track like that on every album, and ‘Into the Void’ was the most difficult one on Master of Reality.”