AT THE BOTTOM OF THE “THANKS” LIST on Mr. Bungle’s first demo tape, The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny, the Humboldt County, California, teenagers offer their fans, herein described as “demented geeks & skankers,” an all-caps message outlining their mission statement: “AIM TO CONFUSE!” This was all the way back 1986, and damned if they aren’t sticking to their word close to 35 years later.
When the group first announced they were getting back together in 2019, following a nearly 20-year hiatus, a much larger faction of loyalists was likely salivating at what kind of bizarre musical experiments the famously genre-splicing act would be getting up to next. Across three surprisingly major label-released albums, Mr. Bungle cross-pollinated violently shredded death metal with cocktail jazz, ska, doo-wop, exotica, surf, klezmer, funk and every other genre tag under the sun, often within the same number.
More than a few eyebrows must have been raised, then, when it was revealed that founding guitarist Trey Spruance, bassist Trevor Dunn and frontman Mike Patton were getting the band back together to re-record the brutal yet comparatively straight-forward thrash sounds of that first cassette, naming the update The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo. Add to that, the trio beefed up their current roster with two especially high-profile first-wave thrash figures — former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo and Anthrax rhythm guitarist Scott Ian. In some ways, it’s made for Mr. Bungle’s weirdest gambit yet.
While the members of Mr. Bungle have gone on to perform in countless eclectic projects over the past few decades — Patton most famously with alt-metal favorites Faith No More and more recently with hardcore supergroup Dead Cross; Spruance with his avant garde collective, Secret Chiefs 3 — at the heart of it, they’re metal lifers. Spruance and Dunn met in a high school music theory class in the mid Eighties. They bonded when Dunn brought in a copy of Anthrax’s Fistful of Metal, and Spruance ended up soloing over “Panic” for the rest of the class. The pair would merge their two bands — Spruance’s power metal-flavored Torcher and Dunn’s thrash-geared Fiend with Patton — to become Mr. Bungle.
Few musicians get to reform their teenage band, let alone with the same ferocity Mr. Bungle has brought to their latest Raging Wrath. This isn’t a mid-life crisis, but rather a vital, vivisecting return that Spruance says gives Bungle’s earliest material “a fair shake.” For years, the recordings have only been available via the hiss of a 10th-generation cassette ripped onto YouTube. Engineered by Husky Höskulds and self-produced by the band, the new recordings deliver big-studio sheen without sacrificing the savagery. “Anarchy Up Your Anus” has been brought back amongst the living with Anthrax-grade gang vocals and determinedly chugging guitar rhythms. Armed with a recently acquired Schecter Evil Twin, Spruance dive-bombs his way through the three truly trem-bar-abusing lead sections on the frenetic “Raping Your Mind,” all the while backed by the punishing, downpicked precision of Ian, the possessor of one of metal’s most storied wrists.
“If you were to ask me which two people were most influential on [thrash] music in the first place, as far as guitar playing and drumming goes, it’s Dave and Scott,” Spruance tells Guitar World, noting how bringing the thrash icons into the fold further pushed Bungle’s founders toward reclaiming the primordial roots of their Raging Wrath. “We wanted to stay true to that spirit, because here they are. Fuck, let’s do this right
While staying reasonably faithful to the original tape, The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo does tweak a few things for the modern age. “Hypocrites,” for instance, drops its original ska-style back section in favor of a nuclear-charged revamp of Ian’s crossover side project S.O.D.’s far right-satirizing “Speak English or Die” — though Bungle add a souped-up bottle-slide solo and rework the lyrics as “Speak Spanish or Die,” as a fuck-you to a certain administration’s family-separating immigration policies. The new album also adds hardcore slam “Erascist” and “Methematics,” tracks written in the Eighties but never properly catalogued, and an era-appropriate blitz through Corrosion of Conformity’s “Loss for Words.”
Though the pandemic has put touring plans on hold indefinitely, Mr. Bungle did manage to sneak in a few reunion dates on both coasts at the beginning of 2020. But after years of composing and performing nuanced, experimental drones and Arabic music explorations with Secret Chiefs 3, Spruance was sweating at the thought of barreling into an all-thrash setlist.
“I’d never stood there and played a full concert of speed metal,” Spruance says, “I mean… maybe the first two or three Mr. Bungle shows when I was 15, yeah, I did that, [but this year’s shows] posed a lot of challenges for me as an instrumentalist. Fuck, it was scary as hell! Daunting, you know? But as soon as we started playing, it was like, ‘This is way more fun than I usually have’.”
Having now spit-shined the demo for a new generation of thrash fans, Spruance and Ian were happy to discuss how, despite arriving 35 years after the fact, The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny became one of the freshest and fiercest metal albums of 2020.
Though you’ve all stayed in touch through various projects over the past two decades, this is Mr. Bungle’s first album in 21 years. Did the Dead Cross/ Secret Chiefs 3 tour in 2017 play a part in getting this reunion off the ground?
TREY SPRUANCE: Sort of. All of us had been working together before that. I think I had Patton singing on a Secret Chiefs thing in 2011, and I’d played with him in Mondo Cane around 2009. That Dead Cross/Secret Chiefs tour was important, though, because Trevor showed up when we played in Brooklyn. That was when he floated this idea, with Patton, myself and Lombardo standing there: Hey, imagine if this group right here went back and did our early thrash metal demo. As far as reunions go, what about going back to the absolute beginning? That music never really got a fair shake. It was just an eyepopping moment. What a perfect idea.
Scott, how did you get involved?
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