Worshipped and adored in a way that most bands are not, Mr. Bungle only released three studio albums during their remorselessly mischievous and leftfield existence. But what albums they were. 1991’s self-titled debut was a dizzying, multi-genre cartoon metal extravaganza that fizzed with anarchic exuberance and bulged with brilliant ideas; 1995’s Disco Volante took a bewildering but enthralling left turn into experimental art rock, surrealism and abstract noise; while 1999’s California combined all of the above with razor-sharp pop hooks and lashings of woozy romanticism. Still best known as the band Mike Patton was fronting when he was frogmarched toward fame and fortune with Faith No More, Mr. Bungle were a bit special. They dispersed 20 years ago, in myriad directions to make vast quantities of weird and wonderful music under innumerable different names. Few thought they would ever return. But as if to prove that 2020 isn’t a total shitshow, they’re back, albeit sounding entirely unlike any of their revered albums. Instead, this is yet another glorious thrash metal record, in a year full of them.
For those unfamiliar with Bungle history, The Raging Wrath Of The Easter Bunny was the band’s opulent first cassette demo, released when the Californians were, in essence, a snotty young thrash metal band with a nascent taste for complexity and lyrical perversity. Diehard fans have long pored over the sonically shaky original, and those early stabs will always retain a certain anarchic charm, but this newly recorded version of those songs loudly seeks to give Mr. Bungle’s first rotten fruits the attention, precision and sonic values that they deserve.
Sensibly, original members Mike Patton (vocals), Trey Spruance (guitar) and Trevor Dunn (bass) have recruited two thrash icons to complete a new line-up: Scott Ian and Dave Lombardo, the genre’s most righteous rhythm guitarist and revered drummer respectively. Unsurprisingly, this rips harder than 99% of every thrash record you’ve ever heard. It’s also frequently hard to tell who is more excited to be here; Scott and Dave’s shit-eating grins are effectively audible from explosive, two-minute opener proper Anarchy Up Your Anus onwards, while the original Bungle trio can hardly believe their luck, as these 35-year-old songs are reborn as the destructive metal monoliths they were (presumably) intended to be back in 1986.
It’s all steeped in the hard-as-nails technicality of Slayer, Dark Angel and Possessed, but thanks to Mike Patton’s mercurial presence and that tirelessly pulverising Scott Ian/Dave Lombardo axis, everything from cult favourites Raping Your Mind and Bungle Grind through to the previously unreleased Methematics (featuring that riff from Love Is A Fist, Bungle fans!) emanates the same sense of subversive glee that made the wide-eyed experimentation of later material so irresistible. There is even room for a raging cover of Corrosion Of Conformity’s Loss For Words – a blistering salute to another revolutionary band from the mid-80s.
As brilliantly off-beam as ever but crushing like never before, Mr. Bungle have turned a noble but nostalgic exercise into one of 2020’s most exhilarating metal records. Heroes.