Mr. Bungle is best known for taking multiple genres of music and fusing them into an absurd blend of truly alternative music. Frequently referred to as “experimental” or “avant garde,” the band pulled on the roots of ska, funk, jazz, and other disparate genres to create the schizophrenic identity that remains adored by their cult fan base. However, prior to releasing three major label albums in the 1990’s, the band was originally conceived as a metal band. Legend has it that it was during Easter of 1986 that they recorded their first demo tape, The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny.
Nearly 35 years later, the band has come together to re-record that first demo, marking the first new release from the band since 1999’s California. Vocalist Mike Patton, bassist Trevor Dunn, and guitarist Trey Spruance were mere teenagers during that first demo session. Today, they are seasoned musicians with an impressive record of critical acclaim – though little of that acclaim is related to Mr. Bungle. Nevertheless, the trio has recruited drummer Dave Lombardo (ex-Slayer, Dead Cross) and guitarist Scott Ian (Anthrax) to help fully realize the thrash metal vision of their earliest effort. Indeed, Lombardo and Ian are two musicians who have veritable doctorate degrees in the genre.
Comprised of 11 tracks at nearly an hour in length, The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny is neither a nostalgia trip nor three high school buddies wanting to relive their glory days. It’s a singular entry in the bands discography that should garner the same devotion of the bands more eclectic past releases. Sure, there’s been more than a few fans across social media who have been dubious of the thrash metal effort after the band established themselves as musical oddballs, but those fans will surely shut the hell up when they spin Easter Bunny for the first time. The album isn’t a dour offering of re-hashed thrash metal tropes. This is still Mr. Bungle, make no mistake. Songs with titles like “Anarchy Up Your Ass” or the bands reinterpretation of the Stormtroopers of Death track “Speak English or Die” (that’s done as “Habla Español o Muere” and includes a “La Cucaracha” intro) should dispel any notion that the band has lost their sense of humor.
The quality of the songs and the performance of the musicians is what makes the album a success, regardless of what you expect from a Mr. Bungle release. Executing top-shelf thrash isn’t something you do on a lark, you’ve got to have the chops to make it real. Trey Spruance’s guitar playing shines beyond the riffage. His solos on “Raping Your Mind,” “Eracist,” and “Glutton for Punishment” are crazed brilliance. Trevor Dunn’s basslines are perfectly mixed with the other instruments, which gives his playing the attention it deserves. Riding alongside a drummer like Dave Lombardo, it would be easy to lose his nimble fingers in a wall of sound, but on Easter Bunny it’s easy to hear why he’s become a frequent collaborator of John Zorn, Melvins, and other Patton projects (Fantômas, Tomahawk). Oh yeah, Dave Lombardo is still nothing short of amazing, particularly shining on the gallop of “Raping Your Mind” and the albums longer tracks that shift tempos back-and-forth on a dime (“Bungle Grind,” “Methematics”). Scott Ian’s rhythm guitar is typically reliable and it’s hard not to wonder if revisiting S.O.D. lent the band some mojo on the albums more punk driven thrash, like “Spreading the Thighs of Death” or the cover of Corrosion of Conformity’s “Loss for Words.” Predictably, Mike Patton’s voice is all over the place without losing sight of what a song needs and exactly when it needs it. Sometimes a song calls for a scream, sometimes a growl, and sometimes you just gotta hit a high note. Patton does it all effortlessly, elevating the songs with both the dynamics of his voice and his deranged lyrics.
There’s a lot to love on The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny. If you’re a metal head who never got into Mr. Bungle, this album will push all your head banging buttons. On the other hand, if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Bungle fan, this one may initially strike you as a departure. But, you don’t need to have owned a copy of Kill ‘Em All on cassette to appreciate what the band achieves on this release. Metal might not be your thing, but I challenge you not to appreciate what these musicians have delivered. If you don’t want to shove your best friend into a wall and sing along with the gang chorus of “Eracist,” you simply can’t be helped. Finally, while this album may fall in the thrash metal genre for convenience sake, it wouldn’t be Mr. Bungle if they didn’t challenge your expectations, both within the genre and among their past work. If you’ve come to love the band for being unpredictable, this album only continues down that enigmatic path.
– J. Kevin Lynch
Pre-Order The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny here. You can also get tickets to Mr. Bungle’s live streaming event, The Night They Came Home, here. The event premieres on October 31st and is available on-demand for the following 72 hours.