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Black Sabbath by John Darnielle

Black Sabbath

By John Darnielle
1 Contributor

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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