Rarely has marijuana sounded so unattractive a proposition as on Sweet Leaf, the opening song on Black Sabbath's third album, from 1971. Even as Ozzy Osbourne hymns the drug for introducing him to his mind, the band churn up a riff that doesn't sound like a toke in the park so much as being tar-pit stoned, pinned to the chair. It's one of the great heavy rock guitar lines, and its influence echoes down the years. This being Sabbath, the rest of the album offers, well, more of the same: great slabs of down-tuned guitar and doomy caterwauling. But Master of Reality deserves credit for more than inventing stoner metal. It's a surprisingly limber album, given momentum by the imaginative, almost jazzy drumming of Bill Ward (in Children of the Grave, his percussive patterns thrillingly transform what risks being a boogie-by-numbers). As with all early-70s Sabbath records, there are three acoustic numbers you can live without, but the rest is untouchable stuff: more aggressive than the MC5, less stodgy than Zeppelin.
Black Sabbath, Master of Reality
Michael Hann is a freelance writer, and former music editor of the Guardian