Master of Reality
Black Sabbath - Master of Reality
Released July 21, 1971
Recorded February – April 1971
Length 34:29
Number of tracks 8
17 (Deluxe Edition)
Label Vertigo (UK)
Warner Bros. (US)
Previous Album
Next Album
Vol. 4

Master of Reality is the third studio album by Black Sabbath, released on July 21st 1971 in both the US and UK.

The album is regarded as the foundation of doom metal, stoner rock, and sludge metal. It was the certified double platinum after having sold more than two million copies worldwide, a first for the band, Master of Reality was the first and only number one album in the US charts until 13.


Master of Reality was recorded at Island Studios, in London, during February and April 1971. The album was produced by Rodger Bain, who had also produced Black Sabbath's previous two albums; this was to be his final collaboration with the band.

On the tracks "Children of the Grave", "Lord of This World", and "Into the Void", guitarist Tony Iommi downtuned his guitar 1 step to produce what he called a "bigger, heavier sound". This also reduced string tension, thus making the guitar less painful for him to play; Iommi had two of his fingers partially severed in a factory accident years earlier 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 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 Ozzy 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 Bill Ward commented that Master of Reality was "an exploratory album". 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.


During the album's recording sessions, Osbourne brought Iommi a large joint which caused the guitarist to cough uncontrollably. Iommi was recording acoustic guitar parts at the time, and his coughing fit was captured on tape: A fragment of Iommi's coughing was later added by producer Bain as the intro to "Sweet Leaf," a song which was admittedly an ode to marijuana use. Iommi recalls "We all played 'Sweet Leaf' while stoned." In an interview with Guitar World in 2001 Butler recalled: "I do remember writing "Sweet Leaf" in the studio. I'd just come back from Dublin, and they'd had these cigarettes called Sweet Afton, which you could only get in Ireland. We were going: "What could we write about?" I took out this cigarette packet, and as you opened it, it's got on the lid: it's the sweetest leaf that gives you the taste" I was like: "Ah, Sweet Leaf!" Writing in Mojo in 2013, Phil Alexander observed: "To most it is the quintessential stoner anthem, a point borne out by Sabbath's own Olympian consumption of hashish during their early days." In the Black Sabbath concert film The Last Supper, Ward ruminates: "Did it enhance the music? Well, you know, we wrote 'Sweet Leaf': 'When I first met you / didn't realize', that's about meeting marijuana, having a relationship with marijuana ... That was part of our lifestyle at that time."

Butler was (and remains) a Catholic and the song After Forever focuses entirely on Christian themes. At the time, Black Sabbath was suspected by some observers of being Satanists due to their dark sound, image, and lyrics. "After Forever" was released as a single along with "Fairies Wear Boots" in 1971.


The first editions of Master of Reality came in an 'envelope sleeve' containing a poster of the band, and with the album's title embossed in black lettering, visible in relief. Later editions lacking the embossed printing would render the album title in grey. This was the first Black Sabbath sleeve on which the lyrics were reproduced on the back of the sleeve. In his autobiography, Iommi describes the cover as "Slightly Spinal Tap-ish, only well before Spinal Tap".

On the first North American editions of the album, several songs had subtitles given to segments, making it appear that there were more songs than there actually were. The intro of "After Forever" was given the title "The Elegy", the outro of "Children of the Grave" was called "The Haunting", the intro of "Lord of This World" was titled "Step Up", and the intro of "Into the Void" called "Deathmask". This treatment had also been used on the North American editions of Black Sabbath's previous two albums. These pressings also incorrectly listed the album title as Masters of Reality. Subsequent editions corrected the album's title and removed three of the four subtitles (all but "The Elegy").

Track Listing

European Edition

Side One:

  1. Sweet Leaf
  2. After Forever
  3. Embryo (Instrumental)
  4. Children of the Grave

Side Two:

  1. Orchid (Instrumental)
  2. Lord of This World
  3. Solitude
  4. Into the Void

United States Edition

NOTE: Just like the self-titled debut album and Paranoid, the album includes names for the intros and outros for some tracks.

Side One:

  1. Sweet Leaf
  2. The Elegy/After Forever
  3. Embryo
  4. Children of The Grave/The Haunting

Side Two:

  1. Orchid
  2. Lord of This World
  3. Solitude
  4. Deathmask/Into The Void

2009 Deluxe Edition

Disc One:

  1. Sweet Leaf
  2. After Forever
  3. Embryo
  4. Children of The Grave
  5. Orchid
  6. Lord of This World
  7. Solitude
  8. Into The Void

Disc Two:

  1. Weevil Woman '71
  2. Sweet Leaf (studio outtake with alternate lyrics)
  3. After Forever (studio outtake -- instrumental)
  4. Children of The Grave (studio outtake with alternate lyrics)
  5. Children of The Grave (studio outtake -- instrumental)
  6. Orchid (studio outtake with Tony count-in)
  7. Lord of This World (studio outtake with slide guitar and piano)
  8. Solitude (studio outtake -- intro with alternative guitar tuning)
  9. Spanish Sid (early version of Into The Void)


Black Sabbath:


  • Rodger Bain: Producer
  • Keef: Photography, Poster Design
  • Mike Stanford: Art Direction


RIAA certification
Date Designation Total Sales
27 September 1971 Gold 500,000
13 October 1986 Platinum 1,000,000
26 July 2001 2x Multi-Platinum 2,000,000
BPI certification (United Kingdom)
Date Designation Total Sales
22 July
Silver 60,000
CRIA certification (Canada)
Date Designation Total Sales
1 September 1977 Gold 50,000
1 September 1977 Platinum 100,000
Black Sabbath studio albums
Black Sabbath, Paranoid, Master of Reality, Vol. 4, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Sabotage, Technical Ecstasy, Never Say Die!, Heaven and Hell, Mob Rules, Born Again, Seventh Star, The Eternal Idol, Headless Cross, Tyr, Dehumanizer, Cross Purposes, Forbidden, 13
Master of Reality (European edition)
Sweet Leaf, After Forever, Embryo, Children of the Grave, Orchid, Lord of This World, Solitude, Into the Void