Back in the mid-1980s, before Mike Patton fronted the legendary band Faith No More, he and his band Mr. Bungle put together a demo tape titled, “The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny.” It was pure thrash metal made by teenagers in Northern California. It was also much different from the avant punk / ska / metal that they would evolve into by the time their debut album would be released in 1991.
In late 2020, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, a reformed Mr. Bungle re-recorded that demo after a series of reunion shows where they played the demo with original members Patton, Trey Spruance, and Trevor Dunn alongside new members Scott Ian of Anthrax fame on guitar and Dave Lombardo (Slayer, The Misfits, and the list goes on) on drums. Filled to the hilt with pulsing thrash metal, the album, The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo, takes that youthful exuberance of making fast, heart-pounding music from that old tape and adds the weight of years of experience. The result is a heavy record that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
It’s been over 20 years since the band’s last tour. So, word that their tour would be picking up for the Fall with a show at Rams Head Live in Baltimore had the place sold-out in no time. In fact, as I got to the venue early there had already started a line and by the time the doors opened there were two lines that snakes outside of the building at Rams Head Live on Sept. 5.
I had seen the opener, Battles, way back when — and this is when my memory gets a bit fuzzy — which I feel was nearly 20 years ago. But seeing this duo of Ian Williams on guitar and John Stanier (who has played with Patton and Dunn in the band Tomahawk) on drums brought back some old memories. The experimental band worked up a hearty sweat and the crowd loved it.
As Mr. Bungle took the stage to the sounds of a version of Also Spracht Zarathustra, the band started with a low growl instrumental before hitting off in full speed with “Anarchy Up My Anus,” as the chugging guitars of Ian and Spruance and that staccato drumming and pounding bass by Lombardo and Dunn, respectively, felt like a speeding train just on the verge of coming off the rails.
From the get-go it was breakneck speed with Mike Patton going back and forth and playing to the crowd. On a rare pause, Patton asked the crowd, “When was the last time Bungle actually played Baltimore?” Someone yelled out, “1999!”
The band then slowed things down considerably with the old 10cc song, “I’m Not In Love” (yes, that “I’m Not In Love”) before screeching back to the onslaught of “Eracist.” And after tearing through a version of S.O.D. ‘s satirical “Speak English or Die” that was redone as “Habla Español O Muere” (Speak Spanish or Die), the crowd started chanting, “Holy shit! Holy shit!,” to which Mike Patton replied, “Well, we’ll take that as a compliment.”
Watch the official music video for “Sudden Death” by Mr. Bungle on YouTube:
As Mr. Bungle moved into a cover of Slayer’s “Hell Awaits,” everyone started chanting. But as quickly as that ended they started on an unlikely bookend of Spandau Ballet’s “True” with Siege’s thrash anthem “Cold War” in the middle. Man, hearing Mike Patton go from full-throated howls to a croon and back again gave me renewed appreciation for the singer’s talent.
After a relatively short set that left this packed room wanting more, the band returned to the stage. “I have a jazz song, but it’s called ‘Satan Never Sleeps.’” Mike Patton told the audience before the band started on a very avant garde version of the early ‘60s Timi Yuro song. But the sweetness was short lived as the band then jumped right into an older Bungle tune, “My Ass Is On Fire,” to wrap up the night.
The setlist included:
Anarchy Up Your Anus
Spreading the Thighs of Death
I Don’t Need Society (DRI)
I’m Not In Love (10cc)
Hypocrites / Habla Español O Muere
Hell Awaits (Slayer)
True (Spandau Ballet) / Cold War (Siege)
Raping Your Mind
Satan Never Sleeps (Timi Yuro)
My Ass Is On Fire
Here are more photos of Mr. Bungle performing at Rams Head Live! on Sept. 5, 2023. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.
Here are photos of Battles opening the evening at Rams Head Live! on September 5, 2023.