That is how Master of Reality begins, with the famous repetitive cough of “Sweet Leaf”. On this 1971 release, Sabbath’s third album, the band has become “masters” of their own sound. Calling Black Sabbath influential is an understatement. Listen to any of their first 4 albums and you can hear where several “metal” bands got their riffs, style, and “dark” image. Actually, the silliest idea about Black Sabbath is that they are all satan worshippers obsessed with death and think that everyone should commit suicide. Anyone who ever thought these things about this group should try reading the words that Ozzy Osbourne is singing. Their not evil words and a prime example is on Master of Reality. For example, in “After Forever” is clearly about finding God – “They should realize that God is the only way to love.” and “Children of the Grave” (No it’s not about little kids rising from their graves and killing people) is about a generation of young people who are tired of the hate filled world they live in and want to change it at any cost – “They’ll fight the world until they’ve won and love comes flowing through.” Tony Iommi has stated that much of the dark and demonic image associated with Sabbath can be chalked up to record company ploys to make money by making the band seem “evil” (For example, the inner sleeve of the debut LP, Black Sabbath (1970), contains an upside down cross which was not the band’s idea at all). If you look at all 8 of the original line up’s album covers, there is not an evil or disturbing image in the bunch, with the minor exception of the hooded figure on the debut cover which could be considered creepy by some. I grew up thinking negative things about Black Sabbath but I’m so glad I grew up and gave this pioneering band a chance because they created some very important music and if anything was ever called “heavy metal” it should be Black Sabbath even though they were creating these sounds before that term existed. Master of Reality is perhaps the statement that solidified the Black Sabbath sound, it is essential. One last question to those who think Ozzy Osbourne is “evil” – What hand gesture does he always give, particularly on the cover of Black Sabbath, Vol. 4? – The peace sign. Yes, maybe he is pure evil.