Kaaos / Cadgers: Split 7” (Lärmattacke Records 2022, original P. Tuotonto, 1981)
Like a lot of you out there, I took home a big stack of releases from the batch of Lärmattacke Records reissues we got in a few weeks back. As much as I’ve enjoyed all of them, I return to this one over and over. It’s funny, because I was on the fence about whether I needed to keep a copy. I’m not sure why… I think I had it in my head that these were less interesting, formative recordings by both bands and that I had the tracks on other compilation releases. It turns out neither of those things were true.
I don’t feel qualified to give the historical background on this record in the same newsletter that Usman, SSR’s resident scholar of Scandinavian hardcore, writes in, but I’ll do my best. Originally released in 1981, the Kaaos / Cadgers split must have been one of the earliest Finnish records in the hardcore style. In fact, it’s early even by worldwide standards, released in the same year as landmark early hardcore records like Minor Threat’s first EP, Black Flag’s Damaged, Discharge’s Why, and Dead Kennedys’ In God We Trust, Inc. Both bands were very young—teenagers, as far as I can tell… they all look like babies on the cover—and had long careers ahead of them, with Kaaos undergoing a series of lineup changes and releasing several more records, and Cadgers changing their name to Riistetyt and releasing their own impressive discography.
I have a huge weakness for young punk bands that leave it all on the table with little sense of finesse, and that’s how both bands play here. It seems like most people prefer the Kaaos side because it’s just so fucking fast. It must have been one of the most intense hardcore records released at that point, with tempos matched only by the Bad Brains and the Middle Class, but delivered with a chainsaw-wielding ferocity reminiscent of Discharge. The first track, “Kytät On Natsisikoja” (“Cops are Nazis”) became a Finnish punk anthem thanks to its infectious, shout-along chorus, but as someone who doesn’t speak Finnish, I’m just as enamored of the whiplash effect I experience when the song swings between the verses, where the drummer wails on the cymbals, to the verses where he goes to the toms. Throughout the record, the tempo seems to snap suddenly up and down, each member of the band clambering to catch up to the beat or let it catch up to them. The vocals are raw as fuck, frequently pushing into the red, but delivered with a total lack of posturing… the singer doesn’t scream or growl or bark, just yells with brute force like a total fucking psychopath.
The Cadgers side is a little different, but I play it just as much as the Kaaos side. The recordings are similar, which is interesting because they were recorded at different studios, albeit only a few weeks apart. A lot of that similarity comes from the way the vocals distort on the loudest and most intense parts, something I can never get enough of. As I mentioned above, the tempos aren’t as frantic on the Kaaos side, but my favorite track is the last one, “Kirkot Kyteen,” which is the slowest one on the record. I love how the singer lays into the last syllable of each line in the verses, stretching them out to absurd proportions to make room for more unhinged snarling. I can picture the rest of the band egging the singer on while he recorded his vocal tracks… “make it crazier!” On the choruses, the slightly off-time backing vocals add to the chaotic feel, and there’s a rad guitar lead squeezed in there too.
So, musically, the record rules. As for my assumption that I had these tracks on compilations, that was not true at all. Usman can correct me on any / all of this stuff, but from what I can tell, the Cadgers side of the split never appeared in full on any compilation release. I assumed the Kaaos side appeared on one of their several compilations, but it’s not on Höhnie’s Totaalinen Kaaos collection, which is where I had assumed it would be. The only comp it appears to have been on is Lost and Found’s 1994 CD collection, Total Chaos, though according to Discogs, that CD omits the last song from the split (even though it appears on the disc’s track listing). I don’t think I ever owned that CD anyway.
Hindsight being 20/20, it seems obvious this record would have bowled me over. It’s a classic record whose existence I had known about for years, but never checked out. It turns out there’s a reason people drop over a grand for the 200-copy first pressing, and it’s not just because of the rarity. So yeah, if you’re in the same boat as me, pick up one of these while you can. I think it deserves a place in the pantheon of great 80s hardcore records.