194: MR BUNGLE

When Mike Patton, Trevor Dunn, and Trey Spruance formed Mr Bungle as teenagers, nobody could’ve predicted the evolution of their sound, or the influence they would have over a generation of alternative metal bands.

For their debut full-length, Mr Bungle were primarily an alternative/funk metal band, but experimented with instrumentation (incorporating brass instruments and samples, and unconventional song structure and theme. It was this period Mr Bungle were most influential, with guitarist Munky naming the debut as “setting the tone” for Korn.

The guitars would shift between funky strums alongside slapped bass to a heavy metal sound that Korn famously referred to as “the Bungle chord”. Patton’s vocal style is as eclectic and erratic as ever, perhaps even more so than any other project.

With their follow up, Disco Volante, Mr Bungle’s avant-garde leanings reached their climax – alt metal, jazz fusion, easy listening, and Arabic music all feature, along with many more influences and genres.

In 1999, they followed it up with California which, while even more expansive in its influences, was the most accessible Bungle album to date. Many of the tracks feature more standard structures, with genres such as lounge music, piano ballads, and easy listening. Beyond that, however, the signature chaos is still present, and everything from Eastern music to psychobilly and electro funk are featured (plus much, much more).

At the turn of the century, Mr Bungle called it a day, leaving behind a legacy. With these three albums, Mr Bungle earned their place as one of the most influential bands of the mid-to-late 90s alternative metal scene, as well as one of the most inventive, genre-blending, and eclectic bands of all time. To incorporate such a cornucopia of sounds and styles, while still producing a cohesive, iconic sound is possibly Mr Bungle’s greatest achievement.

But, as has always been the case with Mr Bungle – the unexpected is to be expected. In 2019, twenty years since California, Patton, Dunn, and Spruance reunited Mr Bungle, but not for the traditional ‘greatest hits’ victory lap. Instead they chose to perform their 1986 demo, ‘The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny’ in full at a band full of selected shows in the US. As the original demo was a far more thrash/death metal style than the band had become known for in subsequent years, Mr Bungle enlisted thrash titans Scott Ian and Dave Lombardo for the shows.

This reborn lineup would also go on to re-record ‘The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny’, releasing it as a full length album with some additional covers last year. The result is a crossover trash monster or an album, demonstrating the power of this latest iteration of one of the most fascinating and chameleon-like bands I’ve ever heard.