Words by Ross McLean
After speaking with Tom about contributing to his new webzine, I decided it was something I definitely wanted to do, but didn’t know what the fuck to write about.
He said there was gonna be a recurring theme of people doing reviews and ‘Top 5’s’, so here’s my input; Top 5 European hardcore punk bands, then and now. (Note: this list is purely opinion-based, if you disagree then that’s good – having our own views is what makes us such beautiful individuals)
So let’s do this chronologically and start with bands of the yesteryear.
5. THE SHITLICKERS
(Skitslickers in Swedish. Gothenburg, Sweden. 1981-1982)
Even though they are probably the most short-lived ‘classic’ punk band of the 1980’s, the Shitlickers still managed to create and release one of the hardest-hitting 7” EP’s in punk history. Spräckta Snutskallar (Cracked Cop Skulls) is a true classic. It was originally released in 1982 and has since become an object of desire (an aphrodisiac, if you will) to punk record collectors worldwide. There’s all sorts of controversy surrounding pressing info/sleeve art/later unreleased demos and all the usual mumbo jumbo, but the original Cracked Cop Skulls EP is 4 tracks of era-defining, timeless swedish hardcore punk. If you haven’t already; download it, crank your stereo to however loud it will go. When the ‘Warsystem‘ riff starts… and the drums kick in… you’ll know what I mean.
4. KAAOS (Tampere, Finland. 1980-2005)
Finnish hardcore punk bands in the 1980s were few and far between. In 1981 KAAOS got together to start a stronghold against the messed up society they were living in. Their first recorded material was a split with CADGERS (who later became RIISTETYT). They went on to play gigs throughout Scandinavia and became known for their raging live performance. They then went through the classic 5 million line-up changes, guitarist Jakke becoming the singer etc etc. but instead of writing a shed-load of shit songs and becoming a techno-pop band, they bounced back with the absolutely fucked up punk insanity that is the Totaalinen Kaaos EP. The record that became one of the best selling Finnish 7” records EVER, mental. It’s got everything you want- quick riffs, manic vocals and they didn’t even try to copy DISCHARGE. Infact a d-beat on this record is scarcely heard, instead it careers along with frenzied 2-beat drums and quick as fuck tom-fills, top class. They went on to do an LP called Riistinaulittu Kaaos then a split with the equally-great TERVEET KÄDET in 1984. They had a brief comeback in the 90s, and the band finally disbanded when Jakke died in November 2007. RIP.
3. TOTALITÄR (Hudiksvall, Sweden. 1984/85 – 2007)
Okay now most of the bands in this blog entry are bands I really enjoy, but I think this post in particular is especially close to my heart. TOTALITÄR for me, are the epitome of a great hardcore punk band. You listen to any record from their 20+ year back catalogue and they seamlessly fuse d-beat/raw punk with classic 80’s hardcore punk. Sure, they took influence from other 80s Swedish bands (some mentioned in this post), but they managed to kick out a raw, original sound. They released the seminal album Sin Egen Motståndare in 1994 on Finn Records. The singer Poffen (also of INSTITUTION, KRIGSHOT and DISSEKERAD) ties it all together with his unique, raw vocal style. Later they did split EP’s and LP’s with DISCLOSE, TRAGEDY, DROPDEAD and more. The fucking best thing about TOTALITÄR is that they never compromised on their sound, throughout their whole discography they play unrivalled, relentless hardcore punk. They only ever played a handful of gigs and didn’t turn into jaded old blokes writing dad-rock. Fully backed.
2. ANTI-CIMEX (Gothenburg, Sweden. 1981-1993)
So the year is 1981, and in the UK DISCHARGE are currently turning the universe upside-down with their unique style of hardcore punk. At this time, Sweden witnesses the birth of ANTI-CIMEX. Named after a pest control company and spearheaded by guitarist Jocke, they recorded their first 7” record ‘Anarkist Attak’ which was well received. Cue a swift lineup change and Tomas ‘Freke’ Jonsson taking over on vocals, and they were ready to take on the globe. There’s quite a division between Cimex fans as to which era of the band they preferred, but there’s no arguments when it comes to the two EP’s they released in ’83 and ’84. Firstly the Raped Ass EP. Despite it having a name you wouldn’t tell your parents (or children) about, it’s an all round great record. The cover art of a grim reaper holding a wad of cash and the words ‘I’ll take all the uranium you’ve got’ is mouth-wateringly perfect punk imagery. The sound on this record is spot on. Guitars, drums and bass blending into a pounding, raw wall of sound with the vocals and occasional botched solos cutting straight through it. The immortal Victims Of A Bomb Raid came next, sadly the recording being a bit cleaner on it but taking nothing away from the rawness of the songs. Also not to miss the genius lyrical content such as ‘Take your fucking cross and stick it up your arse’. The mini-LP Criminal Trap followed before the band broke up in 1986. In 1990 Anti-Cimex was reborn with Cliff from MODERAT LIKVIDATION on guitar. Elsewhere in the world hardcore punk was evolving into new forms and Cimex were also taken along in the tide. Their standout LP from this era was a fucking masterpiece entitled Scandinavian Jawbreaker, this record doesn’t sound a million miles away from the CRO-MAGS who were kicking off overseas at the time. It comes complete with mosh parts, chugs and thrash riffs. It’s so good it hurts. They broke up for good in the mid 90’s and members went onto form WOLFBRIGADE and DRILLER KILLER.
1. MOB 47 (Stockholm, Sweden. 1982-present)
The undisputed kings of Swedish hardcore, MOB 47 is led by guitarist Åke who started the band in 1982 under the name CENSUR. This bands sound is faster than your run of the mill Scandinavian hardcore punk, they are said to have drawn influence from bands such as DRI and GANG GREEN. Some called it thrash and some called it punk, but they were fed up with the labels and coined their own term; MANGEL. On their 1984 7” Känvapen Attack, the first song opens up with a vocal count in (brownie points straight away for me), the second song opens with a standalone d-beat, and the third song starts with another fucking vocal count in! Does it get much better than that? Pre-internet, bands and labels would do compilations to get themselves heard in other countries, and Känvapen Attack featured on the classic P.E.A.C.E/War compilation in 1984 along with CRASS, GISM and DEAD KENNEDYS just to name a few. This cemented their place in the worldwide punk community, and provided influence for future generations of punks even to this day. They also appeared on the Stockholm’s Mangel compilation in 1985. The band split up in the mid-80s, then Åke announced their return in 2007 when they played in Stockholm, their first gig in 20 years. Couple more EP’s later and they’re still somewhat active.
If you’re still reading this I am very grateful as it took me fucking ages to write it all. Next write-up will be top 5 bands of the current golden era of Scandi hardcore. Soon.
Ross lives in Sheffield, plays in UK bands OBSTRUCT and DETERGENTS, and loves vocal count-ins.