by Nick Papanicholas
By now, the majority of the thrash metal genre has seemingly run its course in rock music history. Groups such as Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Sepultura, Stormtroopers of Death, and Anthrax have all delivered the bullet speed hard rock that burst onto the scene in the 80s and, in some cases, has never showed any signs of slowing down or fading away. This is most definitely the case for Mr. Bungle.
The day before last Halloween, they re-released their first demo titled, The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny on CD, vinyl, cassette, and streaming services worldwide. It was released under frontman Mike Patton’s label, Ipecac Recordings.
Established in 1999, his label is currently handling all of his projects (Faith No More, Fantômas, Tomahawk), as well as indie rock groups such as the Melvins, Queens of the Stone Age, and Dub Trio. Patton has certainly been keeping busy during the global pandemic.
With all of his various escapades under his label, he’s planning on releasing a new album with Tomahawk in late March. Raging Wrath is proof that Mr. Bungle isn’t dead just yet, either. Known for their avant-garde style of music and experimental rock sound, Mr. Bungle formed in the mid-80s and personally distributed their first few demo tapes which gained them a following in Northern California, more specifically, Eureka. One of the tapes was The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny, and features several songs that are on the re-recorded album released in late 2020. It’s very much an ode to early thrash metal, a heavy influence to them back then.
When they left Eureka for San Francisco, their palette expanded to include a wider variety of influences such as Fishbone and The Specials. From 1990 to 2000, they released a trilogy of eclectic and wild albums that pushed musical boundaries in a variety of genres and featured some of the craziest instrumentation I’ve ever heard to date. Anyone that’s a fan of music should know that these guys are able to fully contort and distort their sound unlike anyone before or since, and did it all under the major record label, Warner Bros.
Without a doubt, The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny proves that these guys haven’t forgotten where they came from or “lost touch” with the thrash sound. Tracks such as “Sudden Death” and “Bungle Grind” prove that rapid fire guitars that could abruptly change pace any second and the flaming, low growl lyrics of Patton are a force to be reckoned with. This is an album that’s very much aware of the state of thrash music.
Thrash has gone through some changes in the past several decades. Metallica started out making thrash, but eventually started to morph into more generalized relevant and chart-worthy rock music that was something everyone could get into. I suppose that’s how many early thrash groups found their way to fame. Since its inception 40 years ago, it’s continued to provide a sound that many deem to be intense and often out of control. But there’s a dedicated following for this type of music, and you can bet that I’m digging what Mr. Bungle has to offer us in these strange times.
They’re not afraid to go back to their roots and recreate the sound that inspired them to create music in the first place. I would even go as far to consider this record a cornerstone of the thrash metal genre. It’s dripping with sweat from the constant changes in pace that it makes, and has often dizzying consequences as a result of each member playing their instrument with the purpose, professionalism, and intention to re-imagine their stomping grounds years prior. It’s almost as if the pioneers themselves are telling us the tale of how they came to be and what the beginning was like, or in the case of Raging Wrath, the product of everything that was established decades ago. The lyrics of “Sudden Death” were first conceived by the band during the Cold War, and were the thoughts and beliefs of the common man back when that was a major world event. Hearing the song now kind of puts into perspective the current world events and how they’re stoking the same fear and uncertainty that many people are probably thinking about.
With all of this in mind, I’m giving this album 7.8 irate rabbits out of 10. It’s unique and it made me reflect on thrash music as a whole and its history, as well as encapsulating the sound that served as an inspiration for many groups today and well into the future.