Why I ❤️ Black Sabbath's Master Of Reality, by King's X frontman Dug Pinnick

Dug Pinnick in front of the Masters Of Reality artwork
(Image credit: Vertigo/Rat Pak Records)

"I wouldn’t say this was necessarily my favourite Black Sabbath album, but it’s one that so often gets overlooked, and deserves enormous praise because it was so different for the time. 

“On this record, [guitarist] Tony Iommi down-tuned more than he’d done in the past. He was still playing the blues, but it was something closer to what I’d call death blues. There were so many minor chords in there that it was like the soundtrack to a horror movie. And Ozzy was singing as if he were a black man – amazing! 

“Also, how many bands at the time were prepared to talk about marijuana in the way that Sabbath openly did on the opening song of the album, Sweet Leaf? That cough, followed by lyrics like: ‘I love you’… It was so different. Mind you, I always felt there was something very spiritual about a lot of the songs. While the music may have been satanic, Ozzy spoke about the church and religion in the lyrics, and it wasn’t in a negative way either. That made a huge impression on me when I was starting to write myself. 

“The whole album was a real departure, and very brave for a band like Sabbath. And while it may not have been enormously successful, it’s stood up well as one of their more interesting records. I believe it underlined how they refused to be what everyone wanted them to be."

“With Sabbath, I heard their self-titled debut when it came out, and was literally scared. But I didn’t have much interest in their second album, Paranoid. However, when this one was released it just rekindled my fascination with them. And I believe you can hear the influence in what I do, with King’s X and other projects. 

Master Of Reality is an album that challenges you, because here was a band who weren’t prepared to just coast along. They wanted to take risks, and sometimes I feel that’s been lost in the praise given to the obvious classics. All I’d say to anyone who wants to understand just how great Black Sabbath were in those days is: listen to this record all the way through. Every song just leaves you stunned at the musicianship and the heaviness. It’s very dark, very stark, yet also uplifting. 

“This album sticks out from a lot of the other records Sabbath did with Ozzy. Mind you, I do tend to go for records that so many others regard as being lesser ones in the careers of great artists. 

“This is an album that offers a lot of surprises. I may only play it occasionally, but every time I hear something that I hadn’t noticed previously. It has a lot of depth. And it makes you think as well. Sabbath were doing things that others caught on to years later – proof of their greatness."

This interview originally appeared in Classic Rock 86, in October 2005. Dug Pinnick was speaking with Malcolm Dome. Dug's latest solo album, Joy Bomb, is out now.