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About Pungent Stench

Though short-lived, Pungent Stench attained a substantial cult following in the early '90s with their undoubtedly perverse style of splatter metal: a brutal quantity of grindcore extremity, death metal songwriting, exorbitant vocal growling, and the most disturbing lyrics imaginable. Alongside other splatter metal groups such as early Carcass, Cannibal Corpse, and Macabre, this Vienna, Austria, trio garnered an audience that developed a near fetish for anything the group released. Due to their cult status, the group's label, Nuclear Blast, was able to churn out a large amount of output, resulting in a purposefully complicated canon of work, where albums and songs were released, suddenly put out of print, then just as suddenly re-released in repackaged fashion. In the end, after the group released their third, final, and best full-length album, Club Mondo Bizarre, it became clear over time that part of the group's uncanny allure was not so much their music but rather their twisted image, part crafted by the band's perverse imagination, part crafted by Nuclear Blast's exploitative marketing. A trio consisting of Martin Schirenc (vocals/guitar), Jacek Perkowski (bass), and Alex Wank (drums), Pungent Stench formed in 1988, resulting in an early demo tape, Mucous Secretion, and a second demo tape, Extreme Deformity, which was ultimately released as the group's first EP in 1989. After circulating around the burgeoning European underground death metal scene at the end of the '80s, these infamous demos (along with a split-LP with Disharmonic Orchestra) caused a considerable amount of interest in the mysterious group, eventually leading to a deal with the high-profile German label Nuclear Blast, which would guarantee a broad distribution reach not only across the European continent but also throughout the U.S. This led to the group's first major release, For God Your Soul...For Me Your Flesh, which was conveniently packaged with ten of the group's early songs on the CD version of the album, resulting in a hefty 20-track collection of extreme death metal that rivaled Carcass' then-massively popular Symphonies of Sickness album in terms of gore. Capitalizing on the attention garnered by this eyebrow-raising release, Pungent Stench returned a year later with a much more accomplished album, Been Caught Buttering. Thanks in part to its disturbing cover art, Nuclear Blast's excellent marketing, and also to the hype already surrounding the group's debut, Been Caught Buttering catapulted Pungent Stench into a state of global awareness. If For God Your Soul...For Me Your Flesh had awarded the group a small but loyal cult following, Been Caught Buttering crossed over into the death metal mainstream, connecting to not only metalheads with a fetish for gore but also with the important metal fanzine community as well as with American metalheads who were unfamiliar with the group. Nuclear Blast capitalized on this opportunity by pulling For God Your Soul...For Me Your Flesh off the market, resulting in a mad scramble among newcomers to track down copies of the hard-to-find debut release. In late 1993, the marketing campaign began. Word of mouth had circulated about Been Caught Buttering since the album's release, and with Nuclear Blast running ads picturing the album's eye-catching album cover in metal magazines such as Metal Maniacs and Kerrang!, there was still a substantial amount of interest in Pungent Stench. It was in this hungry climate that Nuclear Blast released the Dirty Rhymes & Psychotic Beats EP, which featured remixes of "Blood, Pus, and Gastric Juices," a cult favorite from the group's out-of-print debut album, along with "Viva la Muerte," a song for which they made a video. A few months later, Nuclear Blast re-released For God Your Soul...For Me Your Flesh for fans who hadn't been lucky enough to find the original version. This new version featured some considerably controversial photos which made the group's splatter niche giddy, but, more interestingly, the re-release didn't feature the bonus tracks that had filled half of the original CD release. If this wasn't enough, Nuclear Blast then put out a new Pungent Stench studio album a few months later in early 1994, along with a home video, Video la Muerte. Not surprisingly, given the group's track record, both releases faced controversy, as the album had to be released with a "clean" version for markets not willing to carry the original version and its pornographic photos found within the CD booklet; similarly, particular scenes on the home video faced censorship in some markets. Titled Club Mondo Bizarre, this album would be the group's swan song as well as their strongest album, finding them moving towards a more traditional style of metal and sadomasochistic themes rather than gore. As expected, fans didn't take the breakup well, leading to a healthy bootleg market. And as if it were Nuclear Blast's marketing ploy all along, the label eventually repackaged the bonus tracks that they had removed from For God Your Soul...For Me Your Flesh along with a few other rarities for the Praise the Names of the Musical Assassins compilation in early 1998; keeping in the tradition of past releases, the album featured a hefty booklet full of exploitative photos, making it a suitable retrospective for one of the most notorious death metal bands of the 1990s. ~ Jason Birchmeier

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