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Master of Reality. 33 1/3
John Darnielle describes Master of Reality through a fictional character, a fifteen-year-old boy being held in an adolescent psychiatric centre in southern California in 1985.John Darnielle describes "Master of Reality" in the voice of a fifteen-year-old boy being held in an adolescent psychiatric centre in southern California in 1985. Adolescents in treatment are often required to keep a journal, and they write letters by the dozens: to their parents, to their friends on the outside, to the nurses who confiscate their belongings, to the teachers back at school who've offered them an outlet for their creativity. Our narrator has arrived in treatment with a Walkman and some tapes that are precious to him, only to have them taken away on the ground that their content is part of his greater problem.His various writings, aimed mainly at getting his tapes and Walkman back, will explain how Black Sabbath differs from their Satan-worshipping popular image, and how Master of Reality is an overtly Christian album, which it is. Our narrator will try to explain Black Sabbath like an emissary from an alien race describing his culture to his captors: passionately, patiently, and lovingly.
This album has a genuinely remarkable historical status: as a touchstone for the directionless, and as a common coin for young men and women who felt shut out of the broader cultural economy.It'd be hard to overstate Ozzy Osbourne's totemic status among adolescents in the early eighties. His public image, cobbled together by his audience from occasional mainstream press mentions and niche magazine coverage, made him a nearly perfect sponge for the aggressive feelings of frustrated young men around the world. To this audience, who continue to occupy a an enormous if ghostly position on the margins, the early Black Sabbath albums were accepted classics in a genre whose lack of real status only served to indicate its true value.This, for me, is one of the places where the music does its most interesting work: when it becomes a tool in the hands of its listeners, and when the process of explaining it becomes part of its essence. This was never truer than in the mainstream metal subcultures of the eighties, where album titles served as passwords to a more accepting world.
"Master of Reality", from its Christian heart right down to its ultimately incomprehensible title, is the perfect candidate for illuminating these undersung passageways."33 1/3" is a series of short books about a wide variety of albums, by artists ranging from James Brown to the Beastie Boys. Launched in September 2003, the series now contains over 50 titles and is acclaimed and loved by fans, musicians and scholars alike.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
Mountain Goat John Darnielle's off-stage literary proclivities are no secret, which makes us all the more excited for his first novel, a paean to Black Sabbath's Master of Reality. The book is the latest in Continuum's 33 1/3 series ultrasmart series of elegant, pocket-size appreciations of rock albums as diverse as the Beatles' Let it Be and My Bloody Valentine's Loveless. Darnielle unpacks the classic, riff-erific album as a scrabrous series of diary entries written by a teenager in a Southern California mental institution. Those curious to see the budding rock critic off-stage or who are simply bonkers for Sabbath are advised to check out this reading.--Tayt Harlin "New York Magazine " John Darnielle is the single constant behind the group the Mountain Goats and arguably the most rewarding lyricist working today. Taking into account his prolific wordsmithery ("Laugh lines on our faces / scale maps of the ocean floor") and affinity for horror both cinematic and literary ("Heretic Pride," the most recent Mountain Goats album, has song titles naming Fu Manchu creator Sax Rohmer and H.P. Lovecraft), it shouldn't come as a surprise that he'd contribute to Continuum's "33 1/3" series of short books pegged to iconic albums. But "Master of Reality" departs brilliantly from the typical "33 1/3" format, not just by choosing fiction over criticism or recording history, but in its structural gambits and unwavering sense of purpose.--Ed Parks "Los Angeles Times " This is a masterly look at the corrosive emotion of youth, and the invaluable solace that music gives. Read it, even if you'd rather stick knitting needles in your ears than listen to the album in question. Because its about you.--James Mann "The Big Takeover magazine " This is not the first time Darnielle explores these dark waters. In fact the text is a retelling, if not an extension of "The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton," the first track on the Mountain Goats' 2002 album, All Hail West Texas. As both the text and the song are meditations on the redemptive aspects of heavy metal, the depravity of institutional authority and the refusal to forgive, the reader who is familiar with either Darnielle's musical work or Black Sabbath will find the text particularly rewarding.--Christian "enoughcowbell.com "