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Still Eager for Booty, but No Longer Foaming - 45%

Cat III, August 9th, 2018

The Austrian death metal scene reminds me of the one in the Netherlands, in that both contained their share of good and important bands, but unlike the scenes of Sweden, Florida, Finland, New York and Brazil there was not enough uniformity in bands' style to form an Austrian sound. Location is the greatest commonality between Disharmonic Orchestra, Belphegor, Visceral Evisceration, Disastrous Murmur and Miasma so don't expect retro-Austrian bands to be the next underground trend. With Club Mondo Bizarre – For Members Only, Pungent Stench proved not only do DM bands from Austria not sound like each other, they don't even always sound like themselves. Maybe the band had an upcoming job interview or was asked out on a date, because they sure cleaned up. Sound-wise it's not immaculate, but the difference between this and the band's previous material is vast. It's like some dirt under the fingernails compared to a body caked in mud.

This wouldn't be a problem had the songwriting not seen a marked downgrade. Dynamics have been sacrificed for accessibility. Most riffs are either simple grooves or short and choppy. While rightly considered a death 'n' roll album, Club Mondo Bizarre also has clear similarities to Pantera and their ilk, which isn't a terrible thing, and Pungent Stench is adept with headbanging mid-pace riffing, but the over-reliance on such material is tiresome. Stripping down the guitar work puts a straitjacket on Alex Wank's drumming which is subdued—there's a single blast-beat (the end of “Hydrocephalus”) and little double-bass action. Jacek Perkowski's role is further diminished with the bass mixed even lower and having little to do when it is present.

Then there's Martin Schirenc's vocals. He's more intelligible, though you'll still need a lyrics sheet to catch everything. Problem is he maintains the same tone almost the entire time. Gone are the manic gibbering, the low snarls and the weird moaning. Again, the technique isn't the issue, but that it is utilized with such frequency. There are a few instances where they shake things up. “Treatments of Pain” has brief passages of a spoken voice that has some effect distorting it. In the beginning of “I'm a Family Man” there are clean vocals which have a kind of grunge quality and work surprisingly well. “Klyster Boogie” starts with someone counting to three in Spanish, followed by an acoustic guitar playing a couple notes before the electric guitars kick in. Those are a few oddball ideas that aren't fleshed out. Also, “Hydrocephalus” and “Practice Suicide” stop for a few seconds before the music kicks back in. This is done in such a superfluous way that I can't imagine what they were going for; the unforgettable atmospheric part halfway through “In the Grip of Winter” these are not.

Some shots do hit their target. The aforementioned “I'm a Family Man” ends with cowbell over a hard-rocking groove and a pretty sweet solo. “In Search of the Perfect Torture” features a jaw harp twice (the instrument denoting a cartoon character's erection). That may not sound like a lot, but is the maximum that instrument can appear in a song before it becomes annoying. “Fuck Bizarre” hits hard with its no frills simplicity. Schirenc gives a rapid-fire vocal delivery on “Rape - Pagar con la Misma Moneda”, a song which enjoins rape victims to become vigilantes. Other songs sneak in jabs at the church and other supposed moral authorities, but this one is the most explicit with its message. Before this album, “Extreme Deformity” and “Pungent Stench” were the only songs that hinted at social consciousness. Though they broke up after this, it did signal the direction of albums after their reunion which saw a bigger focus on commentary, but thankfully unlike other bands who suddenly decide they're “serious”, these guys didn't abandon their typical depraved subject matter, but instead use it to make a point. Club Mondo Bizarre also covers strangulation, torture, suicide, coprophilia, and while I don't like the lyrics as much as on Been Caught Buttering, this is one area that hasn't been nerfed.

Like their other reissues (except Ampeauty for some reason), Dissonance Productions have included a bevy of bonus tracks: “Tony” from the 1994 Nuclear Blast compilation Death… Is Just the Beginning III, plus 31 minutes of live recordings. “Tony” is an alright groover that fits in with the rest of the album and includes samples from Scarface. The live material is mostly songs from the previous two albums and a cover of Carnivore's “Race War”. It's a good selection, but the quality leaves much to be desired, with a weak guitar sound and overpowering vocals. Still decent enough as far as curiosities go. Earlier CD editions included karaoke versions of four songs. According to Wikipedia this was part of an aborted contest to have fans send in their own renditions. Were it in regards to better music, I'd like the idea of including instrumental versions of tracks. Not so I could have growl-off parties or whatever, but just as a way to examine the non-vocal parts more easily (and a method for shutting up acquaintances who say metal is just noise).

Lest you get the wrong impression, Club Mondo Bizarre – For Members Only is less an atrocity than a disappointment, and knowing the band's potential makes my score slightly lower than it would be otherwise. Wank, Schirenc and Perkowski can make a catchy song. Diehard death 'n' roll fans may dig it, though it's far from the cream of that crop. While no masterpieces, Pungent Stench's following albums were more successful at indulging these rock and groove tendencies while remaining powerful. I hereby revoke my application for membership to this club.