Before joining Faith No More, Mike Patton was in a band even more extreme for the time period, Mr. Bungle. Formed while in high school, the band initially started with an extremely heavy style no doubt heavily influenced by bands like Possessed along with the Bay Area Thrash scene which was going strong in 1985. The band did not release its debut self-titled full-length until 1991 when they had incorporated myriad styles including Metal, Avant-Garde Jazz, and Funk. Thankfully, the band has been reformed and re-recorded its demo, The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny, enlisting the help of Anthrax’s Scott Ian and Dave Lombardo formerly of Slayer, and recently, Suicidal Tendencies and Misfits fame. What follows is an abrasively heavy, viscerally satisfying album celebrating the marriage of Thrash, Proto-Death Metal, and elements of Hardcore impressively constructed with a more than capable production and clearly impassioned members.
After a creepy, if not demented clean opening track named for “Grizzly Adams,” the television show about a pioneering frontiersman that ran in the late ‘70s, the band launches into an all-out Thrash assault in the form of the hilariously titled, “Anarchy Up Your Anus”. Unsurprisingly, it has a distinct Hardcore-influenced sound a la S.O.D. Keeping in the spirit of the original material, the modern studio allows the heaviness to be that much more impactful. This is most noticeable not only in the clarity of the recording but also in the heft and might of the guitar tone and absolutely slamming drum sound. Lombardo and Patton have worked extensively together in the past with Fantomas being the standout project, and this comfortable working relationship is evidenced in the ferocity of the drum work as well as the grooves established.
It is mind-blowing that this is material written all the way back in the mid-’80s which speaks not only to the strength of the material itself but also to the prowess of this current lineup now on record. There is a distinct, almost stripped-down appeal to the material as there is a rich, lively, organic quality to the sound. It is when the album arrives at the fourth track that things get decidedly Bungle as compared to the officially released material. Titled “Hypocrites/Habla España O Muere,” there is a mariachi section in the middle as well as its tongue in cheek answer to Ian’s “Speak English or Die” in the form of “Speak Spanish or Die”. That unpredictable, multi-faceted approach to songwriting, however, is decidedly toned down as this demo material was originally written with one thing in mind: heaviness.
What should also be emphasized is that this revamped lineup still consists of three-fifths of the original members including Trey Spruance on guitar and keyboards and Trevor Dunn on bass alongside Patton. Thus, this in effect is not a rebranding of the group but rather a reconvening to breathe new life into early material. In that regard, it is a solid, stunning success. Dunn’s bass lines especially push the envelope by way of an extremely prominent, well-rounded tone and impeccable technique throughout.
That isn’t to say that Lombardo and Ian do not let their presence be felt. Rather, they are on full display and marry up nicely to the already well-established musical voices of the band. Ian’s noteworthy signature slamming, the chunky tone is very upfront, and it is a pleasure to hear those deep chugs within this context for it simply fits. The aforementioned S.O.D. seems to be the link between Ian and Mr. Bungle as the material at times greatly favors the seminal Speak English Or Die in many respects despite having come from two vastly different scenes of opposite coasts of the U.S. This material is very much expanding the paradigm, though, with extended arrangements such as the sixth track, “Methematics,” just one second shy of nine minutes long! Lombardo lays down some extremely tight playing all over the place increasing the impact of whatever he touches. In fact, in many ways, the addition of Ian and Lombardo makes more than perfect sense as if they were long-departed former members of the group. Overall, there is a fresh supply of oxygen for the material making it just as pertinent in today’s scene as in 1986.
In many ways, this is the most accessible Mr. Bungle album to date and the catchiest project Patton has been involved with since Faith No More. While some of the most erratic elements of the sound have been eschewed for a more blatantly heavy sound, there is still the requisite surprise, humor, and spontaneity that has always defined the band. On the strength of this material, it now seems imperative for the band to soldier on as a fully active unit. A reality where this album exists only as a brief studio project is the only scenario to kill the buzz acquired from such a momentously heavy album featuring what can only be described as a dream lineup.