40 Years Stoner Rock

Summer 1971 saw the release of Black Sabbath’s third album Master of Reality. A 10ft x 10ft reproduction of the album artwork features in the 40 Years of Heavy Metal and its Unique Birth Place exhibition now on at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Tony likes it and we hope you will do too.


We asked Dr Andy Cope, author of ‘Black Sabbath and the Rise of Heavy Metal Music’ to pinpoint the major innovations that the record contained.

“The author of an article that referenced Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality in Classic Rock magazine (Issue 86 November 2005: 23) remarked that ‘every song just leaves you stunned at the musicianship and heaviness. It’s very dark, very stark, yet also uplifting.’ There is no doubt that with this album a new era had begun, that heavy, dark and stark sound was remarkable for the time and was, significantly, to do with Sabbath’s brave decision to record and release an album as they preferred to play live – with the guitars downtuned. The real significance, however is not simply down to the altered pitch but rather found in the merging of the downtuned guitars with the specific musical devices that Sabbath had established on their first two albums, e.g. the judicial use of musical intervals, such as the tritone and flat 2nd, modal melodic elements, power chord riffs and high gain amplifier output.
Previously, Sabbath had used Eb standard tuning for all live performances but had recorded at standard pitch. On Master of Reality Iommi was emboldened, not only to record at a lower pitch, but to experiment further with downtuning  and radically utilised C# standard (three semitones lower than standard pitch) for the tracks ‘Children of the Grave’, Into the Void’ and ‘Lord of this World’. Further experimentation is evident in ‘After Forever’ which is in D standard tuning (two semitones lower). The main riff of the intro utilises an open fifth string pedal against oblique motion melodic lines on, firstly, the fourth string and then on the sixth string. The riff, although played as if in A, sounds in G, thus creating an original timbre. The influence of these new concepts on the subsequent development of heavy metal cannot be overestimated.”

Here is one of Home of Metal’s all time favourite You Tube clips of the band performing Children of The Grave, track three – side one, in front of several hundred thousand Californians.

Earlier this year a copy of Master of Reality changed hands for a four figure sum.