The Reality Thing

Masters of Reality
The Stone, San Francisco - 1989

Already deep in the vortex, your head gets immersed in a riff so thick, rich, voluptuous and orgasmic you grit your teeth and screw your eyes shut to take the full charge that's being thrown into your body with such natural beauty and genuine emotion that you can do nothing but shake gently.

Open lids reveal the figure of Chris Goss, silhouetted by dry ice, maliciously chipping off the riff with Harrington happy to add decoration to that malice. Googe stands resolutely, thrusting the woomph behind the dread, whilst Vinnie Ludovico kicks the drums at the right accents. The images flash through the mind, red hell, blue hell, green sticky hell, Faust and all share that common denomintor. Hell.

This has officially become a filthy satanic word when used in connection with any band which employs guitars, drums and decides to turn up past five, but Masters of Reality are too seasoned to use hell imagery. Their hell is painted with the masterstrokes that only superb and passionate performance can create. Their instruments are the only props or tools in this creation, and they do a job so convincing that you shiver once it's over, you feel the need to hear the songs over and over again. This is only a piece of the masterwork, a three song unrecorded tie-in titled 'Death Serenade/The Ghostrain/The Metal Entity'.

Masters of Reality are an amazing live band, oozing the sort of class that it takes some a lifetime to get close to. I only hope this band aren't ahead of their time and that people can plug into their brand of genius today, not in three or five years' time.

Their show is painted with such moods and movements that Masters of Reality will bring you convincingly to wherever it is they wanna go. Just as hell is put in front of you, the soul and dust of 'Lookin' To Get Rite' leaves you on an old wooden porch, straw hat, scraggy check shirt, chewing gum and strumming the sun down.

The ethereal swirls and twists of 'Blue Garden' lead into the thudding strength of oil lamps and tie-dye, Masters slowly turning it higher and higher, peaking with Harrington's sharpened toothpick precise solo. The rhythms are so thick and full that you scratch your head wondering just when the last time was that you got hit so goddamn hard and true by such wonderful sounds.

Goss in particular has such a brutally evil tone that many a 'death' band would shrivel in embarrassment at being made to sound so lame in comparison. His playing is slow and hard, when supported by a tone of such warped and mindbening distortions you are looking at maybe the dirtiest sound in the field.

It is the assurance and class that shines through the whole experience. I cannot lie, the attendance was bad, which isn't too surprising when you consider the show had only been booked a fortnight before, but every single person there saw something to talk about. You see a show like this and you could get passionate to the extreme, wonder just how half of the abysmal shit that is allowed support slots in the larger halls actually get them when there is music like this to be accessed. There are platinum sellers in pop rockland who could give themselves a bloody good education by seeing a real band sweating real sweat and playing real music.

'Domino' is a crushing thumper that lowers your head and forces the air guitar, whilst 'John Brown' brings you to a medieval fair, an intriguing guitar meandering over the main rhythm. Melancholy keyboard/piano and gentle guitar lay the pathway with light leaves before a huge galeforce vacuum of sound sucks them up roughly, crudely.

There is indeed a '70s swing in much of the Masters' music, the twist and shake variety, but dusted down with the heavyweight that these times produce.

Compared to some of the snivelling cheapshot half-wit crapshooters I see and hear in venues all over the place, Masters of Reality are a God Of Music to be revered. Much has been made of their being a little older, and... errhem, wiser than most bands in their considered genre. Yes, it's all true because if ability can be measured in age then Masters could be 106 each.

This is the sort of band that don't just play a gig, they give you a full experience. No shit, I was physically moved by their show, me and maybe 100 others were totally drawn into their genius. We must now hope that they don't get lost in their own abilities, that they don't become victims of their own talent. Too many bands are misunderstood or ignored or pushed badly. Should Phonogram get their act together and you get the chance to visit a Masters of Reality show, grab the privilege and take their superb road to enlightenment. [Steffan Chirazi]



Masters of the game

Masters of Reality
The Roxy, Hollywood - 1990

"l really think that if Jesus was back here, he'd be in LA." But if Jesus actually is on the planet right now, and he had a hint of savvy, he'd have been in LA at the Roxy. Because Masters of Reality played, and only the foolish, ignorant or punishable would miss them by choice.

The dramatic re-entrance of one nearly-wasted band saw Chris Goss and new guitarist Daniel Rey whacking out these fucking huge great bastards they call 'powerchords' with such style and vengeance, that a piano background should seem wrong. It didn't. Masters of Reality have no rules. Quite simply, they do what they want, and for that reason alone it was seventh heaven to see them play again.

Of course, it's a little different this time around. There's Rey on guitar instead of Tim Harrington, and John Leamy thumping where Vinnie Ludovico once sat; but there's not one ounce of lessening quality to be heard - only perhaps the answers as to why the Masters split in the first place.

All this brilliance was there before and now it's back in a newer, brasher more dare-devilish form. Anything could happen, and much of this is down to the scruffy ragamuffin figure of Rey. He hits monsters out of his guitar, the poor thing sagging under the strain of his attack.

Goss retains the crunchy psychedelia of yore, his figure cutting a silhouette in the fog, whilst long-time partner Googe took the rhythm with the feel of revitalised experience, a man who was more than a meter.

Repeatedly, the songs came. The swaggering 'Doraldina's Prophecies' and lead-subtle slab of 'She Got Me', 'Kill The King', 'Candy Song', 'The Blue Garden' and 'John Brown' - all mesmeric, all captivating. And through it all, the danger of a note dropped here, a word missed there, the recklessness of Rey looking like a gleeful young pup running joyously around whilst older Master Goss got the contact high of chaos he's wanted for years. When the two took to stools with acoustics for 10 minutes, it was fitting, not ridiculous.

Some never get a first chance, most never get a second. Chris Goss and Masters of Reality may very well be lucky, but on this display they are undoubtedly worth it. Special? You have no idea just how much. [Steffan Chirazi]

Rock Sound:

Mark Lanegan, Masters of Reality

On the left Nick Oliveri is grinning so hard it looks like his face is about to explode. On the right Josh Homme is scowling down at his guitar with pure concentration. In the middle the one person who looks calm and relaxed is the avuncular, bearded figure of Chris Goss: obviously the one person who can make Queens Of The Stone Age look like nervous schoolboys. God knows what Chris Goss of Masters of Reality did to Nick and Josh when he produced them in Kyuss and Queens, but his guest musicians are playing out of their skins for him now. The sleazy, cheesy stripper riffs, hypnotic stoner bass and Chris' melodious vocals clunk-click together with fantastically rocking effect. And at least they look like they're having fun - which is more than you can say for Mark Lanegan. I mean, he's a legend, mate of Kurt Cobain, ex-Screaming Trees, yadda, yadda, yadda. But, um, isn't this a little bit dull? It's almost like a scientific experiment: are the tunes on his latest solo album Field Songs good enough to be enjoyed live without any stage presence, acknowledgement of the audience, or charm of any kind? Answer: no, no they're not. 'One Way Street' and 'No Easy Action' are reduced to bad goth: Nick Cave without the melodrama, or indeed any drama of any kind. Only a tossed-off version of the Trees' 'Nearly Lost You' has any passion at all. Bad sound quality, we're told, as he stalks off after 30 minutes - but really, a legend should be able to do better than that. [Trevor Baker]