It has been 21 years since the last Mr. Bungle album, but the band’s holy trinity remains a respected bastion of experimental rock music. The eclectic nature of Mr. Bungle (1991), Disco Volante (1995), and California (1999) is certainly astounding, but the band’s very first 1986 demo The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny centered on raw, spirited thrash metal. Amid silly titles, amateurish production, and decidedly sloppy performances, the demo displayed the unbridled creativity of vocalist extraordinaire Mike Patton, bassist Trevor Dunn, guitarist Trey Spruance, and drummer Jed Watts. The potential was certainly there—something the band’s long-awaited fourth album aims to realize.
A reinterpretation of Mr. Bungle’s first gasps of life, The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo reunites Patton, Dunn, and Spruance alongside two of thrash metal’s ultimate champions. Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian and ex-Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo need no introduction, and their performances on singles “Raping Your Mind” and “Eracist” encapsulate their contributions to the band's sound. The two become an elite tier rhythm section, over which the other three can lean into Mr. Bungle’s innate weirdness. The former cut’s eviscerating speed and the latter's more Faith No More-ish rhythm structure come packed with oddball leads, break-neck tempo changes, and superhuman singing.
The recording of this album took 10 days, which would pose a problem if everyone involved wasn’t so talented. The immediacy of these performances reflects the primal energy of the original recordings, from the eerie, transportive intro “Grizzly Adams” to the multi-movement assault of “Anarchy Up Your Anus.” The band’s 2020 iteration proves its worth through unrelenting aggression and lethal riffage, but it’s really Patton that steals the show. He doubles down on the guttural and the bestial, using his six-octave range and seemingly limitless artistry to make the most insane vocalizations humanly possible. Essentially, imagine the “holy crap” vocal moments of the thrash metal legendarium made so numerous that the “Angel of Death” scream becomes the baseline standard.
If the song titles didn’t clarify this enough, Mr. Bungle hasn’t toned down its youthful sense of humor. “Hypocrites / Habla Español O Muere” presents a clever reversal of the playfully shocking song “Speak English or Die,” which Ian originally co-wrote with the satirical crossover thrash project Stormtroopers of Death. A mid-song detour into Spanish folk tune “La Cucaracha” drives the sentiment home. Together with the Corrosion of Conformity cover “Loss For Words,” Mr. Bungle shows that it’s possible to embody the spirit of hardcore thrash without sacrificing musicianship. These guys could have gone full prog, but instead, elevate brazen intensity with 34 years of experience and growth.
It’s easy to trace these songs to the decade they originally sprang from, but these new versions spotlight the unique take on thrash Mr. Bungle had back then. The head-bashing stomp and dizzying shredding of “Bungle Grind” and the growling two-step of “Spreading The Thighs of Death” are made for beer-soaked slam pits, but a fun-loving frenzy manifests within the thrash revivalism. Whether it be the former’s inexplicable police whistle blasts or the latter’s campy, villainous laugh tracks, Mr. Bungle gets away with all kinds of tomfoolery. The electrifying songwriting speaks for itself. The visceral tremolo picking and thunderous double bass do leave room for a chuckle here and there, but the musicality on this album is no laughing matter.
The longest track on the album, “Methematics” displays the true breadth of Mr. Bungle’s full-throttle metal. Forays into a ⅞ time signature give way to a rip-roaring rock n roll boogie, as Patton denounces everyone from the KKK to the NRA in a good ol’ fashioned punk rock tirade. Ian and Lombardo revitalize their old-school roots within the chaotic fretboard gymnastics of Spruance and Dunn—not to mention the last two minutes, which get absolutely mind-melting. The band drops into a hideously slow sludge fest, as Patton’s whistle-tone screams comprise some of his most maniacal work to date.
Perhaps it’s another example of the pandemic stoking the flames of frustration, but Mr. Bungle sounds as animalistic as ever after 35 years. The excitement never lets up on deep cuts like “Glutton For Punishment.” There’s always a freakish guitar solo or a ridiculous scream to catch your attention—and holy crap do these riffs hit! To that effect, the seven-minute barrage “Sudden Death” ends things with an emphatic close, careening from one infectious massacre to the next with tasteful, violent tact. the album ends with a classic button and one last satisfying shriek, closing out a 57-minutes dose of adrenaline.
Dunn described The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo as Mr. Bungle utilizing its Ph.D. in thrash. The head knowledge was already there! It just needed a better budget and more experience. The album’s over-the-top nature isn’t about to usurp the iconic classics of the Big Four, but it’s certainly worthy of personal from that legendary circle.