Randy Holden – Population II Album Review

Randy Holden – Population II

Riding Easy Records

Release date: 28/02/2020

Running time: 32 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

8.5/10

 

First of all, an important note for all readers: Randy Holden is NOT the name of a winning hand in strip poker.  I used the phrase at a recent gathering at my Rock’n’Roll Naturist Society club, and nearly got a bunch of fives from Ozzy as a thank you.  Tommy Lee was up for it though, as you can probably imagine.

Anyway, Randy Holden is actually a guitar pioneer who served some time with proto-metal giants Blue Cheer, before splitting to take the helm of his own project.  Population II was the result – a far ahead of it’s time Big Bang of doom and sludge metal.

Originally receiving a limited release in 1969, this album has earned cult status with afficionados of early heavy rock.  And it’s no surprise why; “Population II” is a huge sounding, riff driven behemoth that sounds like it simply can’t have been created in that time period.

But it was.  The era that popular culture tells us was the age of peace and love also birthed this unholy slab of heavy noise.  Randy Holden, like his previous bandmates in Blue Cheer, was happily stomping all over flower power.

Of course, “Population II” is totally over the top.  “Guitar Song” is the first track, featuring the somewhat unimaginative opening line “I love the sound of a guitar playing” – so no marks for lyrical finesse.  If you’re after poetry, this probably ain’t for you.  Instead it’s six minutes of slow, heavy driving riff-based rock that sets the tone for the album.

 “Fruit Icebergs” is an outstanding name for any song; in fact, I might steal it for a band name.  Slow like cooling lava, with a doom-laden melancholic sound –  It’s dark in a Sabbath way.  Whereas the shorter “Between Time” picks up the pace a little and borrows a chorus from “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”.

“Blue My Mind” is less gloomy, but certainly taps into the blues with a hint of Hendrix.  The final song, “Keeper of my Flame” is over 10 minutes of pulsating, repetitive riff wrestling that doesn’t out stay it’s welcome.  Ol’ Randy stretches for the epic here and pretty much nails it, strangling that guitar and taking the listener on a heroic journey.

Yet another history lesson for which we can thank the scholars at Riding Easy Records, Randy Holden’s “Population II” is back in circulation and worth taking time to investigate.  You’ll wonder how this was lost for so long.

Visit Riding Easy records on the interweb here.

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Don’t forget to visit Ever Metal – where this review first appeared  for all your rock and metal news.

1968 – Gig Review

1968

Friday 12th May 2017

Telfords Warehouse, Chester

The road to Telfords Warehouse was littered with walking corpses, stumbling clumsily with clothes falling from their limbs.  The zombified masses were yet again evacuating Chester Races, bumbling along in a drunken stupor.  I was on my way to Telfords to witness something far more intriguing – local band 1968 playing live, in a safe haven away from the riders of the apocalypse outside.

Telfords Warehouse is always a great place to visit, though it’s not famed for showcasing music like we were looking forward to tonight.  I’ve enjoyed music from other genres at the venue, but it was good to be expecting some noisy rock.  I met up with old buddy Dan and waited for the sonic attack to begin.

As you’d expect with a name like 1968, this band has Sabbath, Mountain, Blue Cheer and others of that ilk in their DNA.  It’s heavy, stoner rock with a reverence for the originals, proudly worn on their sleeves like old sewn on patches.  The bass chugs, the drums pound, the guitars wail and the vocals soar – all classic stuff.

It’s not just about the originators in this sonic stew though.  I could hear hints of epic Soundgarden, crunchy Kyuss riffs and even some COC style southern groove.

Enough of the band comparisons.  1968 are taking their influences and weaving new landscapes, using their own talents to create something energetic and new.  The band present a crushing presence on stage, performing their material with a killer confidence.

There’s even a progressive, experimental edge to some songs, with short instrumental sections lowering the volume and creating a mellower vibe.  If anything, I’d like to hear more of this develop in the songs – if only to provide a psychedlic contrast before the guitars thunder in again.

Any race goers who had wandered into Telfords soon left, slain by the merciless onslaught of 1968.  A superb band, I can’t wait to see them live again.  They have the riffs, the power and the vision to take them far.

It’s 1968.  The revolution is now.

Visit the 1968 Bandcamp page and download their awesome “Fortuna Havana” EP here.

1968 are on Facebook here.

The Telfords Warehouse website is here.