It’s a well established fact at this point that, musically at least, Mike Patton can do no wrong. Whether he’s working with Fantomas or Tomahawk, Peeping Tom or the Dillinger Escape Plan, French composer Jean Claude-Vannier or beat-boxer Rahzel — or, of course, the frankly magnificent Faith No More — Patton has built a career out of looking forward. Of confusing and confounding fans in the best possible ways and of exploring artistic avenues that nobody would expect him to wander into. Of doing precisely what he wants to do.
He has music in his back catalog that is polarizing to say the least. There will be Faith No More fans who still say they don’t “get” Fantomas. His recent work with punk rock band Dead Cross could well be deemed two raw and anti-melody for some ‘90s rockers. But Patton doesn’t give a shit. As a result, the challenge that each and every one of the songs that he’s involved with is worth every effort from the listener. The rewards are endless.
The whole time, Patton has seemed to resist nostalgia. Faith No More split in 1998 and demand for their reformation was deafening. Eventually, they did get back together in 2015 for the Sol Invictus album and tour, but it was on their terms. That’s how it is with Patton and all of his projects.
So it’s perhaps a little surprising that, not only has his first band Mr. Bungle reformed, but that they’re only performing music from their very early demos and the Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny EP on this short run of shows. A little, but not really when you think about it. If Patton, and the various stellar musicians that he aligns himself with, is going to do nostalgia, there’s very likely going to be a twist. Mr. Bungle hadn’t played together since 2004 until now, and the current version of the band sees Patton and original members Trey Spruance (guitar) and Trevor Dunn (bass) joined by Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian and Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo (who Patton works with in Dead Cross).
And god damn if the show isn’t phenomenal. The set list, on night two of three in L.A., is a revelation — of how good that early Bungle stuff really is. The songs from Raging…, including “Anarchy Up Your Anus,” “Spreading the Thighs of Death” and “Raping Your Mind” are thrashy, technically dazzling, intense beasts. Every one of them.
Spruance is a ridiculous guitar player. The guy seems to have rubber fingers, as he covers every inch of the fretboard in a blink. The rhythm section of Dunn and Lombardo seems to have settled from the start — no surprise considering the talents of the two musicians. And Scott Ian has always been one of the best rhythm guitarists in metal.
There are nods of respect to the two “new” boys — the instrumental opening to Slayer’s “Hell Awaits” serves as an introduction to a played-straight cover of Seals & Crofts’ “Summer Breeze.” And toward the end, we get a cover of the tongue-in-cheek “Speak English or Die,” renamed here as “Speak Spanish or Die,” by Ian’s hardcore side project Stormtroopers of Death.
There are other superb covers too — of the Circle Jerks’ “World Up My Ass,” Cro-Mags’ “Malfunction,” 7 Seconds’ “You Lose,” Corrosion of Conformity’s “Loss for Words” (possibly in tribute to recently deceased COC man Reed Mullin, and a closing “Fuck the USA” by The Exploited. It was all over far too soon, and we can only hope that the band will be working together beyond this run of shows.
Earlier on the Thursday night, Neil Hamburger wretched up jokes that were hit and miss, though his off-color humor and unlistenable music was somehow appropriate. San Diego death metal band Cattle Decapitation provided a far more enjoyable warm-up for Bungle — brutally intense and in gloriously bad taste. —Brett Callwood
If there was anyone in the room that were still not clued in to the fact that Mr. Bungle’s musical intentions for this week were metallic in nature, first-night openers Hirax provided a quick wake-up call. The thrash act has been a cult favorite within Southern California’s underground metal scene for over three decades, and while there were maybe a 100 Los Angeles thrash fans in the know enthusiastically responding to the band when they took the stage, the sheer charismatic force of vocalist Katon W. De Pena — long one of the most underrated frontmen in metal — and the raw thrash fury that powered their 1985 debut Raging Violence gradually won over the devoted Bungle audience throughout their 30-minute set.
Experimental hardcore punk/rap group Ho99o9 (pronounced “Horror”) then took the stage for a bit more radical presentation. The trio is a bit tough to categorize, their more straightforward punk songs channeling the aggression of vintage Bad Brains, and their rap-oriented songs chaotic in a similar manner to acts such as Death Grips. What is undeniable and straight-to-the-point though is their manic stage energy, which is surely a primary factor in Mike Patton inviting them to share the stage with Faith No More and Dead Cross in recent years. With their bass output pumped up to organ-liquefying levels, the duo of co-vocalists theOGM and Eaddy worked the crowd into a frenzy — at times leaving the stage to join them — while live drummer Billy Rymer (Dillinger Escape Plan) pounded the skins in a blistering manner. —Jason Roche