Possibly one of the most darkly humorous bands from the old school, Pungent Stench traces it’s roots back to 1988 when former members of Carnage came together to create this sick and twisted group. These “tres hombres,” as the three members Martin Schirenc (El Cochino) on vocals and guitar, El Gore on bass and Alex Wank on drums referred to themselves as, became the flagbearers for extreme warped metal in the early nineties. After a demo and a split EP with fellow Austrians the Disharmonic Orchestra in 1989, Pungent Stench unleashed it’s “Extreme Deformity” 7″ and the classic debut “For God Your Soul…For Me Your Flesh.” The time was 1990, a year that also saw them put out one of a couple split 7″s with Nuclear Blast labelmates Benediction. (A band that Alex Wank never minded sharing vinyl space with, since he deemed them the only other group on the label that vaguely resembled them.) This album took the underground by storm with it’s deranged groovy death beat songs like “Dead Body Love” and “Embalmed In Sulphuric Acid.” This was back in the time when not many bands were recording extreme metal.
By the time their classic second album “Been Caught Buttering” hit the masses a year later, Pungent Stench developed a devoted cult following. They shared that trait that early Carcass had – writing songs in an intelligent, pseudo-medical nomenclature style. They also got graphic with the lyrics relating to it, too. “Splatterday Night Fever” has to be the sickest song about a venereal disease that I have ever heard. But, Pungent Stench also brought other obtuse elements into the mix. Besides naming themselves with Spanish monikers, they would start a long trend of throwing Spanish words and song titles into their work (like their “Viva La Muerte” video set). Advance copies of “Been Caught Buttering” also brought them plenty of unwanted attention when they were touring with Master and Abomination to promote their debut. The British customs confiscated copies of the album due to the graphic nature of the two geriatric severed heads on the cover. Censorship never happened, since this depiction had been shown in art galleries before. It was a work done by New Mexico photographer Joel Peter Witkin, renowned for his disturbing daguerrotypes. This marked one of several times Pungent Stench utilized his work.
By the time “Dirty Rhymes and Psychotronic Beats” came out in 1993, Pungent Stench did a move from extreme grindcore to death metal tunes that were groove monsters. Songs such as “Why Can’t the Bodies Fly” had that killer skank beat that made them mosh pit favorites only second to Celtic Frost. They also continued their trend of putting out cover songs from other bands such as Warning and the Mentors on their records. Martin Shirenc was an anomaly in the world of metal, as he laid out riffs with a fender telecaster – a guitar mainly used by country and blues troubadours. It gave them a distinct sound, truly evident in their fourth studio release, “Club Mondo Bizarre…For Members Only.” They went on a European tour after this release, laid down the tracks for a new record, and then went straight out again for a US tour. This non-stop grind caused tensions and bad moods to fly in the band, making things no fun. Pungent Stench decided at this time to call it a day, and put out the import “Praise the Names of the Musical Assassins” in 1997 as sort of a farewell epitaph.
Fast forward to 2001, a year in which Nuclear Blast called up the former band members to ask them if they could supply a few unreleased bonus tracks for a compilation tribute it would be putting out. Pungent Stench didn’t have any songs left, since they were all included on the farewell CD. So Martin and Alex (and one of an endless procession of bass players) decided that instead of doing two songs for a re-release they might as well just reform the band. Once again, they re-signed with Nuclear Blast and put out another split 7″ with Benediction, 2001’s “Loot, Shoot, Electrocute.” That nice fast rocker was put onto the comeback album “Masters of Moral…Servants of Sin.” The band had changed over the past few years, a normal progression that people go through. They had decided that Pungent Stench should be less death and more polished, or as they had stated – “a different way of offending.” Martin and Alex figured that the grindcore craze had been done to death and nothing could get sicker, so their new music should be just as morbid and warped – but in a more tounge in cheek style. They had already gotten off to a great start by offending the Germans with a limited pressing of theirs, where they were dressed as priests with a little girl in a white dress on the cover. So, in watching their backs they decided to become more extreme in their message rather than in their visual album covers.
The old Pungent Stench dark humor came through in the tracks off this album like “School’s Out Forever” (about the Columbine massacre) and “Rex Paedophilia” (of course about priests). They set out on the Holy Inquisition tour of the US with Incantation and commenced work on material for 2004’s “Ampeauty.” As with their comeback album, this one took a slower turn, but was also chock full of offensive lyrics and sensitive issues. The song titles ranged from “Same Shit, Different Asshole” to the politically charged “Lynndie: She Wolf of Abu Ghraib” (about Lynndie England, the American marine that took photos of naked detainees on leashes). They had planned to release another one in 2007, but those same old tensions reared again between Martin and Alex, so Pungent Stench once again disbanded. This time they had split up due to some unsavory emails exchanged between the two allegedly regarding Alex not being appreciated for all his behind the scenes work with arranging artwork, booking, etc. It appeared that Pungent Stench were done for good.
Meanwhile, Alex has been involved in the industrial band Spine, while Martin has been in Hollenthon, Kreuzweg and most recently Zombie Inc. In 2010, Martin – who also maintains the Pungent Stench facebook page – teamed up with Dr. (Pope) Heathen Scum of the Mentors to release an audio CD of a few songs they recorded together, such as “Euro Sluts.” If Pungent Stench never reunite, at least we have our memories of some of the most demented material to ever defile our ears during the golden era of grindcore.
Vicky Willis has been a freelance journalist and former college radio disc jockey for almost twenty years. She has been contributing to Metalunderground.com since 2010.