Black Sabbath: Master Of Reality (2012 Remaster)


Released July 21, 1971

Master of Reality is the third studio album by English rock band Black Sabbath, released on 21 July 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.

Master of Reality was recorded at Island Studios in London from February to April 1971. The album was produced by Rodger Bain, who had also produced Black Sabbath’s previous two albums, with future Judas Priest producer Tom Allom handling engineering. This was to be Bain’s final collaboration with Black Sabbath as guitarist Tony Iommi took over production duties for the band’s next several albums. Drummer Bill Ward explained: “Previously, we didn’t have a clue what to do in the studio, and relied heavily on Rodger. But this time we were a lot more together, understood what was involved and were more opinionated on how things should be done.”

On the tracks “Children of the Grave”, “Lord of This World”, and “Into the Void”, Iommi downtuned his guitar 1​1⁄2 steps in an effort to reduce string tension, thus making the guitar less painful for him to play. This pain was the result of a factory accident years earlier in which he had the tips of two of his fingers severed. The downtuning also helped the guitarist produce what he called a “bigger, heavier sound”. Geezer Butler also downtuned his bass guitar to match Iommi. “It helped with the sound, too”, Butler explained to Guitar for the Practicing Musician in 1994. “Then it got to the point where we tuned even lower to make it easier vocal-wise. But Ozzy (Osbourne) would then sing higher so it sort of defeated the object.” In the 2013 biography of the band Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe, Mick Wall writes that “the Sabbath sound took a plunge into even greater darkness. Bereft even of reverb, leaving their sound as dry as old bones dug up from some desert burial plot, the finished music’s brutish force would so alarm the critics they would punish Sabbath in print for being blatantly thuggish, purposefully mindless, creepy, and obnoxious. Twenty years later groups like Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, and, particularly, Nirvana, would excavate the same heaving lung sound … And be rewarded with critical garlands.” In his autobiography I Am Ozzy, vocalist Osbourne states that he cannot remember much about recording Master of Reality “apart from the fact that Tony detuned his guitar to make it easier to play, Geezer wrote ‘Sweet Leaf’ about all the dope we’d been smoking, and ‘Children of the Grave’ was the most kick-ass song we’d ever recorded.”

In the liner notes to the 1998 live album Reunion, drummer Ward commented that Master of Reality was “an exploratory album”. Ward elaborated in a 2016 interview with Metal Hammer magazine: “On the first album, we had two days to do everything, and not much more time for Paranoid. But now we could take our time, and try out different things. We all embraced the opportunity: Tony threw in classical guitar parts, Geezer’s bass was virtually doubled in power, I went for bigger bass drums, also experimenting with overdubs. And Ozzy was so much better. But this was the first time when we didn’t have gigs booked in, and could just focus on making the album a landmark.” In 2013, Mojo magazine called Master of Reality “The sound of a band becoming increasingly comfortable in their studio surroundings.” Iommi believes the band might have become too comfortable, however, telling Guitar World in 1992, “During Master of Reality, we started getting more experimental and began taking too much time to record. Ultimately, I think it really confused us. Sometimes I think I’d really like to go back to the way we recorded the first two albums. I’ve always preferred just going into the studio and playing, without spending a lot of time rehearsing or getting sounds.” The song “Into the Void” was especially problematic, with Iommi revealing in the same interview: “We tried recording “Into the Void” in a couple of 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.” In his autobiography Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath, Iommi describes the difficulty Osbourne also experienced recording the vocal: “It has this slow bit, but then the riff where Osbourne comes in is very fast. Osbourne had to sing really rapidly: “Rocket engines burning fuel so fast, up into the night sky they blast,” quick words like that. Geezer had written all the words out for him … Seeing him try was hilarious.” The song “Solitude” showcases guitarist Iommi’s multi-instrumental talents, featuring him playing guitar, flute, and piano. A delay effect was later added to Osbourne’s vocals on the song as a means of doubling the vocal track.

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Cover photo courtesy Rhino Records

Track Listing

  1. Sweet Leaf
  2. After Forever / The Elegy
  3. Embryo
  4. Children of the Grave / The Haunting
  5. Orchid
  6. Lord of this World
  7. Solitude
  8. Into the Void / Deathmask

Writing Credits

  • Tracks 1,4,6,7,8 by Iommi / Butler / Ward / Osbourne
  • Tracks 2,3,5 by Iommi

Other Credits

  • Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals
  • Tony Iommi – Guitar
  • Geezer Butler – Bass
  • Bill Ward – Drums
  • Produced by Rodger Bain for Tony Hall Enterprises
  • Engineered by Colin Caldwell & Vic Smith
  • Recorded at Record Plant, Los Angeles CA USA
  • Art Direction: Mike Stanford
  • Design by Bloomsbury Group
  • 1987 CD Mastering by WCI Record Group
  • 1996 Remaster by Ray Staff @ Whitfield St Studios
  • 1996 Design, booklet notes, & sleeves by Hugh Gilmour
  • 2009 Remaster by Andy Pearce
  • 2009 Project coordination by Steve Hammonds & Jon Richards
  • 2009 Design by Hugh Gilmour
  • 2009 Tape to Digital Transfer by Tim Hunt
  • 2012 Digital Remaster by Andy Pearce & Matt Wortham
  • 2012 Vinyl Mastering by Greg Moore @ Masterpiece


  • This album had the secondary song titles like the first two albums did (and Volume 4 did after this).  However, the ones from Master of Reality were used less often than any of the others.  They are “The Elegy” (with After Forever), “Deathmask” (with Into the Void), and “The Haunting” (with Children of the Grave).
  • The original Warner Brothers prints of the album had some strangeness with Deathmask and being an individually labeled track.   Depending on which version you got, Deathmask had a running time as high as 3:08, which is arbitrary, as it falls in the middle of vocals in the song.  When it was corrected, the times were made worse, as Solitude was listed as an 8:08 song, and Into the Void at just 3:08.  Latter prints still had incorrect timings on the booklet, but the CD itself was properly spaced out.
  • The coughing at the beginning of Sweet Leaf is Tony Iommi right after he took a drag on a joint.
  • Some versions of the album report Embryo as a 5 minute song. This is incorrect. Embryo is a short instrumental right before the start of Children of the Grave.
  • YES, it’s Ozzy singing on Solitude.
Black vinyl edition.

Original Master of Reality album released on Warner Bros. Records (BS 2562) July 1971

2016 Release co-ordination for Warner Music Global Catalogue: Hugh Gilmour
Thanks to: Colin Newman, Tim Fraser-Harding, & Steve Hammonds
Reissue Design: Gilmour Design

Special thanks to: Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Ozzy Osbourne, & Bill Ward

Lyrics printed on back cover of album
Warner logo, “Stereo” and “2562” printed on front cover in upper left corner
Also includes extra black inner sleeve with bio of band and album on both sides

Barcode and Other Identifiers

  • Barcode: 0 81227 94673 9
  • Matrix / Runout (Side 1 runout, etched): R1 552926 A1
  • Matrix / Runout (Side 2 runout, etched): R1 552926 B1 i…i
Barcode and Other Identifiers
  • Barcode ((Text)): 0 81227 94670 8
  • Barcode ((Scanned)): 081227946708
  • Matrix / Runout ((Side 1) etched): R1 552927 A1
  • Matrix / Runout ((Side 2) etched): R1 552927 B1


Notes courtesy Black Sabbath Online & Discogs


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