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46 Years Ago: Black Sabbath Release ‘Master of Reality’!

Master of Reality is the third studio album by Black Sabbath, released July 21, 1971. It is widely regarded as the foundation of doom metal, stoner rock, and sludge metal. It was certified double platinum after having sold over 2 million copies. Master of Reality was Black Sabbath’s first and only top 10 album in the US until 13, forty-two years later.

It was the cough that inspired legions! While Black Sabbath were in Island Studios in London working on their third album, Master of Reality, Ozzy handed guitarist Tony Iommi a very large joint. That’s right they were toking up on “The Devils Lettuce” while in the studio. Tony was recording an acoustic passage and he was hunched over a microphone and the potent cannabis made him cough. Producer Rodger Bain looped the recording of the cough, added delay and used it as the intro to “Sweet Leaf,” a song all about the inspirational qualities of marijuana and the cornerstone of Master of Reality, which was released on July 21, 1971. And the rest as they say is Hard Rock or Heavy Metal History!

On the tracks “Into the Void”, “Children of the Grave”, and “Lord of This World”, Tony Iommi downtuned his guitar to produce what he called a “bigger, heavier sound”. This also reduced string tension, making the guitar less painful for him to play; since he had two of his fingers partially severed in a factory accident years earlier. Geezer Butler also downtuned his bass to match Iommi. Then it got to the point where they tuned it down even lower while Ozzy would then sing higher helping to cement Sabbath’s iconic doom-laden sound! And twenty years later bands like The Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden and Nirvana would utilize the same downtuned guitar sound! And of course they were rewarded with critical acclaim! Again Sabbath laying the foundation for the massive grunge scene and the world of hard rock and heavy metal. Several bands are even named after songs on Master of Reality, or the album itself. I can’t stress enough, how this is another very important album in the Black Sabbath catalog that every metalhead should own!

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