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The Sweet Smell of Decay - 100%

Cat III, August 6th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Dissonance Productions (Digipak)

Been Caught Buttering achieves greatness not by expanding upon or pushing forward the death metal genre, but by distilling it. Here is death metal embodied: buzzsaw guitars threaten to slice through limb, drums are hit with the precision and care of a killer clubbing his victim, the bass throbs underneath like the pulse of some monstrous beast, solos rip through the din without warning, depraved tales are recited in a maniacal bark, and everything is sloshed in terrible, fetid grime. As far as ruthless, muck-encrusted death, its only rival is Mental Funeral. This is elemental—admirable for its purity of vision.

As definitive as this sophomore album is, it's also unique, both in Pungent Stench's discography and in death metal as a whole. Nothing is quite like it, which is hinted at before you even hear it. Joel-Peter Witkin returns as cover artist, with the piece “The Kiss”, a photograph of a cadaver head split down the middle and the two halves laid side by side as if caught in an amorous embrace. Witkin's work is suitably repulsive, but with enough artistry to elevate it above the legions of goregrind covers created from an evening trawling rotten.com. Musically, there's an undercurrent of rock. Unlike death 'n' roll bands (such as Pungent Stench became on their subsequent album) who make rock music with DM trappings, Been Caught Buttering bends and contorts rock to fit within its twisted framework. Just as the cover takes a familiar and innocent image and perverts it into something dreadful, the band employ well-worn tropes to devious ends. Take Martin Schirenc's plentiful solos which have an old-school flavor while retaining the band's manic sickness. They're also plentiful, appearing at least once on all songs except “Splatterday Night Fever”, and are played in a squealing tone which contrasts well with the mega-distorted crunch of the rest of the guitars.

Many of the riffs groove, but in the way that 70s rock grooved rather than the way 90s metal did. Infectious songwriting is always at the forefront—these Austrians will make you bob your head before lopping it off. Schirenc and drummer Alex Wank have a contentious relationship, but make a tremendous team musically. Wank's performance is aggressive yet dynamic, shifting effortlessly between thunderous, slow sections and crazed blasting. Technical proficiency had improved since their debut, For God Your Soul... for Me Your Flesh, but there's still a looseness to their playing, even a bit of punk sloppiness. While not as integral a part of Pungent Stench, Jacek Perkowski proved a capable bassist through the first half of the band's existence. Often individual notes aren't discernible and instead the bass is a low thrum laying six feet beneath the other instruments. At times, the bass does rise up, zombified and ready to attack such as in the heaving gloom of “And Only Hunger Remains” or the funky bassline that leads into a shrieking solo near the end of “Sick Bizarre Defaced Creation”. The latter is one of a few nutso left-turns. “Games of Humiliation” ends with Spanish-tinged acoustic guitar and the tinkling of bar chimes. Hearing “It's heavy” moaned in a death growl over this instrumentation is deliriously weird.

Schirenc's vocals are another standout feature. More homicidal lunatic than horned demon, he delivers a performance so uninhibited, so ferociously batty it has yet to be topped. He groans, grunts, screams, sputters and gargles. A throat has rarely been utilized for such wild and gross results on a metal record. Close your eyes and you can practically feel the spit flecks hit your face. Chris Reifert on Autopsy's underrated Shitfun is a good parallel. The lyrics spewed are fittingly brutal, covering topics such as cannibalism, BDSM, crippling deformity, venereal disease and the preservation of body parts obtained through serial murder. English is not their first language resulting in some awkward lines (“You look like a dumb, like a head full of shit” from “S.M.A.S.H.”), but that only adds to the coal-black humor. “Happy Re-Birthday” details a gruesome parricide which precedes the narrator literally reenacting his birth. “Ballad of Mangled Homeboys” puts a DM spin on inner-city gang violence, a subject uncommon to this genre. Particularly I like how the walls are “daubed with their names” in the first verse, and “daubed with their brains” in the final one. That song and “Daddy Cruel” come from the 屍臭 EP released the same year, but have been included as bonus tracks on so many reissues, and fit so well that I consider them part of the album.

Speaking of bonus tracks, Dissonance Productions' 2018 reissue includes 33 minutes of previously-unreleased live material. These were recorded in 1991, but strangely are all taken from the previous album and EPs. Still, the quality is decent enough to make a worthy addition. Packaging is simple: a digipak only containing lyrics and lineup info. A live version of “Bonesawer” is listed on back despite not appearing on the disc (the material Wank provided Dissonance exceeded the CD runtime, but the cover design wasn't updated after this was realized). However, considering how long physical copies of this and the rest of their albums have been out of print, fans ought to be pleased.

The Pungent Stench discography is inconsistent in its quality. There are other high points, but none to match this, not that one could reasonably expect a band to attain this quality once, let alone multiple times. When asked what this death metal thing is about, my answer is simply to play Been Caught Buttering. If you worship at the altars of ungodly splatter, if you regularly have sonic sewage oozing from your headphones and your buttering has as of yet gone undetected, it's high time you get yourself caught.

Sickening, disgusting, demented, BRILLIANT! - 90%

SoulCancer, September 24th, 2009

With Been Caught Buttering, Pungent Stench’s second full-length offering, they’ve upped the ante from their excellent debut (”For God Your Soul… For Me Your Flesh and come up with something in the style of their last album, while adding some interesting little flairs and details.

The first thing anyone would notice about this album is the cover art: namely two dismembered male heads with their lips interlocked in a kiss. Seeing this, you get a general idea as to what you’re in for: sick, demented and brutal old-school death metal, with lots of references to the bizarre and disturbing.

It must be said that the production between this and For God Your Soul… For Me Your Flesh is night and day. While the production is still somewhat raw, muddy and dirty, the instrumentation can be heard a bit better than before. The vocals, guitars, bass and drums seem very equal in the mix, allowing the listener to wrap their head around the chaos a bit more easily.

Opener “Shrunken and Mummified Bitch” starts off with the usual fair that fans had been used to with their previous record, with perhaps a bit more technicality (the starts, stops and drum fills are much more apparent) and lyrics that seem a bit more horrid than their last time out.

As was mentioned, there are some flourishes of experimental bits we hadn’t heard from Pungent Stench yet. This makes it even more interesting to the listener and makes them stand out a tad bit more from their peers (at the time) on Nuclear Blast Records.

For example, in Happy Re-Birthday, we’re treated to a Black Sabbath-styled interlude 2:08 to 2:48, which wouldn’t sound too out of place on the likes of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Games of Humiliation treats us to some moments of doom-like death metal, and from 4:10 to the end of the song we are treated to Martin grunting, laughing and making other generally maniacal sounds over a lush, beautiful acoustic guitar and (I shit you not) what sounds to be windchimes!

There are, of course, some fast, almost thrash-like burners here, such as S.M.A.S.H. and Brainpan Blues, among others. And proving that they could challenge any contender to the “slow and heavy” routine is evident in the first four minutes and twenty-eight seconds. And finally, possibly one of their most demented lead fills can be found in the final track, Splatterday Night Fever. It’s almost like a death metal interpretation of the theme from The Twilight Zone when you hear it. And it’s a fucking addictive riff!

The thing that holds your attention is the flow, and how it is so easily disrupted – like a sleight of hand before you realize it, leaving you content with where the songs went. And overall, this album has a better flow than anything in their first four albums.

Lyrically, the subjects at hand got infinitely more sick and obscene. Topics include a protagonist carving open his mother, so he can crawl in and be reborn, extreme sadomasochism (to the point of being nearly unfathomable), serial murder for the simple reason of eating brains, merciless undead creatures, cannibalism and an STD that does awful things to you: pus from the dick? This hurts just thinking about it!

If you’re given an option, I would advise this album be your first exposure to Pungent Stench: it’s very listenable, it’s disgusting in many ways and will give you a crash course in the depraved world that these demented Austrians fantasize of. This is a true underground death metal classic from a band that didn’t get the attention it deserved: this was one of the highlights of Nuclear Blast in the early 90s!

That's fucking sick - 89%

Acrobat, December 30th, 2008

I’ve always swayed towards the more earthy, filthy side of death metal. I simply find it conveys the genre’s initial subject matter far better than superfluous guitar shredding and drums that sound as if they were polished between every hit. It feels so much more heartfelt – perhaps in literal pathological terms – than the more technical approach to this style (he says making a comparison between two styles of death metal that has never been made before, never!). Been Caught Buttering is a classic of the vile and stark variety of death metal and perhaps the most out-and-out fun death metal records I’ve heard.

Been Caught Buttering is pretty much my perfect death metal album in terms of style. It’s got the twisted, foul humour of early Carcass* combined with the more doom-laden passages of Autopsy, but with far more Sabbath-esque rock than Autopsy ever dared to incorporate. If you were ever looking for a way to endear me to a death metal album – and I know you want to – then an overt Sabbath homage is the way forward. At numerous times during Been Caught Buttering the listener is taken frighteningly close to the Into the Void groove… it’s almost like an acknowledgment that Black Sabbath is the heaviest band ever! This wasn’t anything particularly revolutionary, but where Autopsy and such would only dwell on the most extreme aspects of the Sabbath sound Pungent Stench incorporate the more acoustic mellow passages of Sabbath’s early seventies output. Games of Humiliation demonstrates this best with its sparkly, melodious end section coupled to great comic effect by the bellows of “It’s heavy!”, which it really is. I find this section to be reminiscent of Cathedral’s Forest of Equilibrium, but rather than giving a off that downtrodden feel, you get a sense of that perturbing sense of humour shining through. As if I were a ever flowing stream of comparisons, I’d note this has a somewhat similar effect to the middle section in Carnivore’s Male Supremacy, but far more unsettling in overall mood. You can’t really escape the humour in the fact that the band has chosen to have such a beautiful section in a song with such grotesque sexual images fantasies that only an Austrian could have dreamt of.

Been Caught Buttering is one of the catchiest death metal albums I’ve ever come across. It’s full of more rock-ish passages but not in an overt “must invent new awkward sub-genre!” way. Hey, if you ever wanted a testament to its catchiness just listen to opening riff in S.M.A.S.H, which At The Gates nicked for something on their metal-newbie favourite, Slaughter of the Soul. If you ever needed a sign of accessibility! Now if only Arch Enemy would borrow some of these lyrical themes that would truly make my day! But still, no heaviness is sacrificed and if anything the more comprehensible moments simply go to stress the intense parts of the album. Making an album that’s heavy and inaccessible isn’t really much of an achievement – despite being a fun way to spend an afternoon – but Pungent Stench successfully and perhaps more obscurely than you’d imagine meld both memorable and extreme ideas… I’d like to see Amon Amarath do that!

That said, this is hardly the most coherent album I’ve heard, but it’s all part of the fun. Songs like Splutter Supper are just manic exercises rather than finely honed pieces but the simple fact is this is a boon as the more manic numbers just carry the album along with extraordinary pace. Of course, this works well with the songs twisted narrative about eating your neighbour’s kid. The lead guitar, too, heightens this feel; it’s that sort of gargling shred that Slayer popularised but done in a manner that’s taking it to comedic extremes. Don Cochino’s leads have an almost chirping conversational manner at times which reminds me somewhat of when I’d play guitar with a beer can and imitate The Clangers. But when he’s not gargling he does a sick twisted take on Tony Iommi’s sound, which matches up rather nicely with the overall feel on some of the material here. He can also weld a riff like a claw hammer, which is pretty useful.

Part of the weird, moribund beauty of Been Caught Buttering is that it’s not doing anything that could be really considered groundbreaking but rather just delivering fairly straight-ahead death metal with lots of bizarre quirks. Horror themes in heavy metal weren’t anything revolutionary but my God are they effective and Splatterday Night Fever shows this once again. It’s got that famous eerie horror theme (its name currently escapes me) and a rancorous bubbling noise that’s similar to the noise the half-decapitated nurse makes in Brain Dead. The verses show some quirky twists and turns and with a sick imagination that thrives on this sort of thing one can imagine some poor sod hunched over in his bathroom oozing puss out of places, that well… you know. It’s a curious image and is another reason why your mother doesn’t approve of one-night stands, dirty women and all sorts of other AC/DC lyrical fodder.

It’s gormless, heavy and skilfully-yet-sloppily crafted. Been Caught Buttering is like a sexual deviant running through the park at midnight masturbating in places he shouldn’t and then promptly throwing up… all whilst cackling at his own deranged handiwork. Which is the sort of stuff that amuses me, not that I’m allowed in parks at night, mind you.

*Jeff Walker was apparently once asked why he didn’t write funny lyrics like Pungent Stench. I guess the interviewer really knew his stuff!

Underrated Death Metal - 85%

Saethiaal, September 22nd, 2008

Pungent Stench’s second album “Been Caught Buttering” is a rather impressive and underrated death metal release. They don’t fall into the trap that many other death metal bands do of sounding either overly boring or repetitive, one of the reasons for this would be that the whole album only clocks in at just over thirty-seven minutes.

The first thing that hits you when you listen to the first track is how doom-like the atmosphere feels, that is, until the tempo picks up and blows you away with a barrage of death metal brilliance. Many of the riffs on this release are well-written and rather catchy, none of them feel out of place or like they are just thrown in there for the sake of it. The guitarist is very proficient throughout, playing some very technical solos which are rather impressive. The drumming is rather solid without standing out at all. The bass was probably put at the perfect volume during the mixing process, as it isn’t too loud and certainly isn’t too quiet. The lyrics are pretty much what you would expect from a death metal band, about gore, murder and that sick sense of humour that we have all come to expect and love.

The best songs on this album would have to be “Shrunken and Mummified Bitch” and “Splatterday Night Fever” which are the first and last songs on the album. The first song is an absolute classic and one of my favourite death metal songs of all time, with the lyrics “mummified - that’s fucking sick” running through my head every time I think of the song. The song starts off slower but picks up as it goes on and features a killer solo at the end. The other stand-out “Splatterday Night Fever”, is a great little song, with a great title (good play on words). The song is rather groovy and quick throughout and around the middle you will hear the strangest vocal noise you have ever heard, which is repeated at the end of the song again.

Unfortunately not every song is of this quality with the band suffering a small slump around the middle of the album. The slump begins at the song “Brainpan Blues” but picks back up around the end of “and Only Hunger Remains”. Overall this is quite a good effort from the Austrians and certainly deserves more recognition than it gets.

The quintessential Pungent Stench album - 95%

morbert, August 6th, 2008

This album is the album that has everything we love about Pungent Stench combined and perfectly balanced. We have their fast death metal assault, their sludgy doom-death metal and of course their sick bizarre sense of humour.

The weakspot of their arliest works, being incidental sloppiness on faster sections, has vanished here. The band still sounds over the top when playing fast but they’re never all over the place anymore. Because of the improved tightness the feeling of speed actually increases.

I will of course not give a track-by-track review but will recall the highlights or most memorable sections. The doom songs “Games Of Humilation” and especially “And Only Hunger Remains” are very well crafted and catchy enough. Martin Schirenc’s acrobatic but mostly sick vocals do add a lot to the songs! In fact, his vocals (which are more than just your average grunts) are a very important part of the albums atmosphere and attitude.

Songs like the extremely catchy “Sputter Supper” and “Brainpan Blues” shows the band at their best on faster material. The lyrics are fun(ny), the vocals briliant and there are enough breaks to keep these raging songs enjoyable all the way. The opener “Shrunken And Mummified Bitch” combines best of both worlds as it goes through different paces yet still remains a well crafted composition and highly memorable.

The humour that shines through most of the songs and especially lyrics is emphasized on the last two songs “Sick Bizarre Defaced Creation” and “Splatterday Night Fever” which close this album in a most suiting way.

Even though this album takes 37 minutes it always feels like being way too short. Take that as a compliment. Yet there is something to complain. I am talking production here. Of course the sound is transparent and brutal but over all doesn’t have enough depth and low tones. The drums and guitars should have gotten a heavier production (without losig the definition obviously). In the end the albums sounds to ‘high’ and sharp.

Were it not for the production, this album would have even been a bigger classic