The chances of ever breaking eye contact with former Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins are rather slim, and for a good reason. The singer, actor and all-around lover of the arts, Rollins has found notoriety for being one of the most intense people in music. It is both a blessing and a curse, and has seen Rollins caught on the wrong side of debates numerous times. However, where the singer’s unrelenting passion comes in handy is when he discusses music.
A total geek on all things music, Rollins has shed light on everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Death and even Pere Ubu in the past. To say that Rollins lives and breathes music would be something of an understatement. He’s one of those fellows, akin to a Mark Radcliffe, Johnny Marr or John Doran, who you could sit and listen to talk about music for hours. Rising from the underground to the legendary status he enjoys today, he has his finger on the pulse and is duly a respected voice on mainstream and more niche acts.
However, as with any avid music lover, there are a few acts that Rollins holds in higher regard than many others. For him, no more is this true than with Black Sabbath. A huge fan of the Birmingham band’s classic lineup, Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward, there’s one album of theirs that, for Rollins, trumps all the rest, this is 1971’s sludge fest Master of Reality.
This love for Sabbath, and particularly Master of Reality, accounts for Rollins’ dark side, and some of the more punishing moments in his back catalogue.
“Just my opinion, but the Black Sabbath catalogue is essential listening. One record from said catalogue really changed my mind on what arrangement meant in songs,” he told Sound of Vinyl in 2017. “The Black Sabbath album that means the most to me is their third album Master of Reality.” He followed this up with a simple message: “It is the first Black Sabbath album to get, then go from there.”
Given that a lot of Rollins work, be it in Black Flag or Rollins Band, have featured some gargantuan sounds made by the brotherly partnership of the bass and drums, it may come as little surprise to find out that Rollins views Butler and Ward as the best rhythm section in rock history.
When discussing Master of Reality, he told Goldmine in 2020: “Bill Ward and Geezer Butler are one of the greatest, if not undermentioned, rhythm sections in rock. This album not only has Tony Iommi capturing one of the greatest tones ever committed to tape, but Ward and Butler swinging as hard as they’re crushing it. This is a perfectly balanced bit of playing. This is the record I evaluate other rhythm sections by.”
One of the most influential albums of all time, by one of the most significant bands ever, Henry Rollins joins a long list of musical icons who list Master of Reality as one of the most excellent records ever put to wax.
Listen to Master of Reality in full below.