In 1969, proto-metal guitarist Randy Holden owned no less than 16 amps, each encased with 200 watts of power, which might explain why this record, Population II, has guitars that sound not like heavy metal falling from the sky, but like black holes disintegrating chunks of the earth’s core. It’s an admirable sound achieved by just Holden and drummer Chris Lockheed (who also played keyboards simultaneously), coming together to make the tracks even more unbelievable. The album is a showcase for a great guitarist who was well versed in a variety of styles, who focused on distilling everything he knows into something monolithically heavy and, for most of it, slow, like an octogenarian driving in the left lane. The end result is music that weights down on you, but ultimately feels satisfying, like the best doom metal from any decade.
Sadly, Population II was a fluke, an occurrence that happened once and then quickly fell into oblivion. Soon after its release on Hobbit Records, a large portion of Randy’s gear was stolen, and the album was left in limbo until a couple of years ago. I wonder what metal would’ve been like had Population II directly influenced it with such dragging beats and thicker-than most-of-its-contemporaries riffs. I guess it’s something we’ll never know. But what’s undeniable is that history would’ve surely regarded Randy Holden as one of metal’s greatest blueprinters.