Into the Obscure: Masters of Reality – Deep in the Hole

We all have our dirty metal secrets that we selfishly keep to ourselves, only sharing with a select few close to us. Or alternatively, we incessantly talk up underground gems and spread the gospel to anyone that will listen, as we cherish our slice of underground cred. Into the Obscure aims to right the wrongs and unearth the artists/albums that for whatever unjust reason didn’t get the exposure, appreciation or credit they sorely deserved the first time round.

We are taking a different trip down the journey of underappreciated oddities and obscurities, exploring rockier terrain in the form of Masters of Reality’s underrated 2001 LP, Deep in the Hole. Formed in the early ’80s, and masterminded by vocalist/guitarist Chris Goss, it was not until 1989 when Masters of Reality released their quirky, ahead of its time self-titled debut, also referred to as The Blue Garden. Boasting a heavy rock sound indebted to such heavyweights as Cream, Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult and Led Zeppelin, Masters of Reality’s chameleon-like rock persona traversed a colorful array of styles under the broader hard and heavy rock spectrum, including blues, psychedelic, classic and stoner influences. On 1993’s hard rocking Sunrise on the Sufferbus, Goss and co even recruited legendary Cream drummer Ginger Baker to man the stool.

The modest Goss has over the years been highlighted as a key influence in the development of the desert rock, or more commonly referred to, stoner rock scene. Aside from his respectable musical outlet, Goss achieved acclaim as a producer on the three best Kyuss albums, as well as carving out a career as a hired producer, engineer or contributor to albums from a diverse array of bands, including Queens of the Stone Age, Screaming Trees, Stone Temple Pilots, Desert Sessions and Ian Astbury amongst many other credits. The dude also created the classic Ren & Stimpy tune “Climb Inside My World” for extra cred under the Masters of Reality name. Extra musical hobbies aside, his main baby remained alive and kicking to release their more collaborative and fully realized fourth opus, Deep in the Hole. Tight, consistent and delightfully catchy writing frames the familiar Masters of Reality sound, albeit embracing a more contemporary stoner rock vibe. Again Goss and Leamy spearheaded the album, however, Goss enlisted the services of his esteemed buddies, including Mark Lanegan, Josh Homme, Dave Catching, Nick Oliveri and Troy Van Leeuwan.

Deep in the Hole encapsulates the interconnected elements of their evolving sound into a primo slice of modern desert rock, with an old-school soul. The quirky and psychedelic trademarks remain in effect through an addictive collection of top-notch tunes. Earworm hooks, courtesy of Goss’ distinctly smooth and melodic singing voice, and delightful collection of fuzzy, hooky stoner riffs lay the foundations for an easily digestible and consistently dynamic and strong collection. Whether coasting on the laidback vibes and infectious grooves of “Third Man on the Moon,” woozy balladry of “Counting Horses,” or traversing eerie atmospheres on the doomy, stoner psych bliss of “Scatagoria,” there is tons of variety on offer. Aside from short vocal interlude “Major Lance,” which carries a ’60s pop vibe, there are no weak links or skippable moments.

The good times keep rolling, Goss bringing his A-game in both guitar, vocal, and writing departments. In particular, his guitar work is simple at times, yet deceptively clever, exploring fuzzy stoner dimensions, embellished with blues, doom, psych, hard, and classic rock influences. The awesome “Corpus Scorpios Electrified” whips these various influences into a killer concoction of tough hard rockin’ grooves, melodic hooks, and righteous riffage. Lanegan lends his vocal talents to the fun and infectious rock anthem, “High Noon Amsterdam,” while Masters of Reality dial it up again for thumping closer “Shotgun Son,” featuring more tasty guitar licks and instantly memorable hooks. Production is also on point, delivering warm, comforting tones with clarity and edge to compliment the album’s diverse rock nature.

While I have enjoyed the various albums released by Masters of Reality over their extended career, none of them hit me quite like Deep in the Hole, although The Blue Garden is another essential slice of rock coolness in their repertoire. Released a year prior, Deep in the Hole is like the cool, tripped-out older brother to Songs for the Deaf, and an album I deem must listening for hardcore stoner/desert rock aficionados, crafted by an unsung innovator and grizzled veteran of the scene. At the time of this writing, you won’t find Deep in the Hole on streaming services or Bandcamp, but I encourage curious listeners to nab a copy one way or another.

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