The world's 'first heavy metal album' finally gets a release

Randy Holden - Population II
(Image credit: Riding Easy Records)

Randy Holden's cult classic Population II, considered by some to be the world's first heavy metal album, is finally gaining an official release. 

Originally slated for release several months before Black Sabbath's debut, Holden – who played guitar on Blue Cheer's third album, 1969's New! Improved! – knew he'd stumbled upon a new sound.  

"I wanted to do something that hadn't been done before," Holden says. "I was interested in discordant sounds that could be melodic but gigantically huge. I rented an Opera house for rehearsal, set up with 16 Sunn amps. That's what I was going for, way over the top."
Inspired by the nagging sound of a ceiling fan, he set to work. 

"At the time, I was hearing these crazy melodies everywhere I went," he says. "I thought I was going crazy. Machinery all around us doesn't turn in a perfect rhythm. That's what I was tuning into, I heard the music and the discordant sounds coming from the machinery. It was perfect for rendering the machine we built.

"Godzilla just walked into the room. People just stood there with their eyes and mouths wide open.”

The result was Population II, a bruising, discombobulating tribute to the power of volume. But Holden went bankrupt making the album, and it never got released until it showed up in bootleg form years later.

Now properly mastered for the first time, Population II is now being released by Riding Easy Records, with limited edition coloured vinyl editions are available via the Riding Easy website. It's due for release on February 28. 

The label has also released the first track from the album, Blue My Mind

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.