I sometimes wonder if Mr. Bungle have been trolling their fans since day one. Their self-titled debut full-length, released in 1991 by Warner Brothers, is a blur of funk, ska, world music, and death metal that flips from Morbid Angel-influenced riffs to zany circus music and back on a dime. Formed by high school friends in Eureka, California, in the mid-80s, these legendary genre hoppers (the understatement of the century) introduced the world to wildly prolific vocalist and composer Mike Patton, though he got famous first with Faith No More—he’d landed a side gig with that better-established band in 1988, and when they broke out, it helped Mr. Bungle secure their major-label deal. Bungle released two more albums that showcased their gonzo chops and talent, and the fact that their far-out, style-bending music sounded like nonsense to most listeners didn’t stop the band from attracting one of the most rabid cult followings of the 90s—metalheads, prog weirdos, burnouts, and music snobs alike drooled over their antics. Mr. Bungle called it a day in 2000, and in the years since their core members have explored other weird and wild musical realms. Bassist Trevor Dunn has played with avant-garde wizard John Zorn and sludge-metal mainstays Melvins, guitarist Trey Spruance has led the bizarre and expansive Secret Chiefs 3, and Patton has kept himself busy with about a zillion projects—including a successful Faith No More reunion.
When Mr. Bungle announced a string of shows for early 2020, fans collectively lost their shit. Because Dunn, Patton, and Spruance had made so much varied and challenging music over the past two decades, the directions they could explore together seemed infinite. So what did they do? They kept on trolling. They drew the bulk of their sets from their first demo tape, 1986’s The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny. And in the months since those gigs, Patton, Spruance, and Dunn have linked up with thrash-metal pioneers Dave Lombardo and Scott Ian to rerecord the tape, which they’ve released under the same title. Written before the band started cramming 15 parts into a single song, the new Raging Wrath sounds like exactly what it is: grown-ups playing music they made as high school kids in the 80s who were aping Slayer, and this time taking it less seriously. It’s always a treat to hear Dave Lombardo play drums, but I’m struggling to see the point in making this record—every die-hard Mr. Bungle fan has heard these songs already, and all Mr. Bungle fans are diehards. Even if you usually like the band’s trolling, I can’t imagine how you’d feel if you’d waited half your life for this reunion only to get a rehashing of a just OK thrash-metal demo. v