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Sabbath's best work,
This review is from: Master of Reality (Audio CD)
In 1971 Led Zeppelin released Led Zeppelin IV, something of a return to the heavier material of their first two albums after the more acoustically inclined Led Zeppelin III. In the same year Deep Purple released Machine Head and Black Sabbath released this, their third album. Clearly 1971 was quite a year for Hard Rock.
This album’s predecessor, Paranoid, is rightly regarded as a classic, and widely viewed as a defining moment in Rock history, but in many ways this album is every bit its equal.
And, if anything, much of the material on this album is even weightier than that on Paranoid, and as such represents another step on the path that saw Hard Rock spawn Heavy Metal.
There is a feeling when listening to this album that the band has moved on since releasing its predecessor: this is clearly a band now feeling confident of their musical direction and style (although this was only released the year after their debut, it feels much more like an album from the ‘70s, while Paranoid seems very much an album on the cusp between the ‘60s and ‘70s). Consequently, it seems as though the group are able to relax and drive their work forwards. There are two lighter instrumental interludes here in the shape of ‘Embryo’ and ‘Orchid’, and ‘Solitude’ is another gently romantic arrangement in the vein of ‘Planet Caravan’. This song is typically downbeat but the touches of colour offered by the subtle percussion and flute accompaniment add to the impression that Sabbath were more than just a one trick pony.
That said, the heavy music here is heavier than on either of the preceding albums, and in the cases of ‘After Forever’, ‘Children Of The Grave’ and ‘Into The Void’ features some of the heaviest riffing ever committed to record. These three songs are really what this album is all about: ‘After Forever’ is a surprisingly intelligent indictment of religious intolerance and the redemptive power of belief set against a hefty main riff and a nice little guitar figure that relieves the crushing weight of the tune. ‘Children Of The Grave’s trebly bass and guitar riffing also provides drummer Bill Ward with one of his finest moments as he plays a crisply metallic drum part between verses and on the instrumental break, while ‘Into The Void’s Star Wars-esque tale of intergalactic travel starts with a super heavy churning riff before turning into a nicely rolling blizzard of riffola and soloing.
What made Paranoid great was the fiery playing of the band and the solid writing and structuring of some fairly complex music. And really the same thing applies again here: there are sterling performances by the musicians and some nicely arranged, muscular, songs.
The major problems with the album are the slightly lumpy track ‘Lord Of This World’, and more importantly, the rather murky production. Obviously Tony Iommi’s heavy, dirty riffs were a big influence on the so-called Grunge scene of the early ‘90s, but the production here detracts from their sharpness. Where Led Zeppelin’s sound is beautifully clear and punchy (although part of that is obviously down to the players involved), this sounds cluttered and, consequently, deprived of some of its wallop. Bill Ward is never going to play with the precise power of John Bonham, and Geezer Butler lacks the subtle, session honed bass playing of John Paul Jones, but they really deserve better treatment than this. Grumbles aside though, for the quality of the music on offer here it’s worth putting up with some sloppy production, as this is terrifically potent stuff.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 6 Feb 2009 13:53:59 GMT
T. Glover says:
You forgot about The Who, they released Who's Next in 71 which is also an excellent hard rock album.
By the way your last paragraph makes you sound like you masturbate over Led Zeppelin.
Posted on 9 Jul 2011 23:19:38 BDT
Glen Watkins says:
Deep Purple released Machine Head in the spring of 1972.
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