June 11, 2020

Loyal Blood Records, an independent record label based in Bergen, Norway, has signed up Trondheim-based punk / thrash-rock quintet Combos, to add to their ‘abrasive’ little stable containing the likes of Jabba, Bosakka, Timeworn, Blood Command!

Combos sort of emerged from nowhere at the end 2018, as the result of a long line of coincidences that put together guitar player and song writer Thomas Antonsen along with drummer Andreas Kjøl Berg and singer Axel Møller Olsen. During their first year of existence the trio managed to garner quite a reputation across Scandanavia as one of the most promising up-and coming Norwegian bands, thanks to their energetic, straight forward and in-your-face punk/thrash-rock. More recently, with the line-up expanded into a quintet with the addition of Jørgen Wassvik on bass and Terje Bjørndahl on guitar, Combos have just released their first album Steelo, on Loyal Blood Records.

Johnny Rotten he ain’t…

There are eight songs on this album, all of which are fairly derivative of the punk / power-pop eras. And for me that’s a potential problem. Steelo shows yet another young Scandanavian band wanting to aggressively lambast their listeners, with adjectives like “energetic”, “vigorous”, “dynamic” and “abrasive” being bandied around, but haven’t we heard it all before?

I might now be an old fart, but I still love listening to The Clash, The Jam, The Ramones, The Fall, The Adverts, The Buzzcocks, The Damned…. even the Rezillos!….the list is endless and it’s still all great fun, and/or still very meaningful, because those were my formative years. And that’s the issue – I suspect you basically have to be 18 or under, with plenty of attitude, to get “New Punk”…

Don’t get me wrong, there’s some decent tracks here, a reasonably catchy blend of punk rage with the abrasiveness of noise rock – but there’s nothing particularly new, and even Scando-punk-reprises have been repeatedly done before. The opener Boom Shakalaka is basically the same riff as the Hives’ Hate To Say I Told You So from 20 years ago. The next three tracks use a semi-rap vocal style over the proverbial three-chord thrash, again nothing wrong with them. Make Money, Take Money is actually a bit different, slower, and therefore interesting, before we’re back into ’70s thrash.

The bottom line therefore – if I want to listen to this genre, I’ll go for the real thing, it was written and performed at a time when approaches to music as intrinsic core elements of lifestyle were changing. Strangely, when checking the date of the Hives track, I came upon a photo of the Pistols playing Trondheim in 1977. Now that would have been a night to remember! This album is not bad, but whether it means as much to today’s teenagers, outside of Norway, I’m not sure…. Maybe I’m just peeved that there is no official video to share!