Mr. Bungle & Melvins Bring Insanity To Denver, CO 5-16-23

Mr. Bungle & Melvins Bring Insanity To Denver, CO 5-16-23

Sometimes the only cure for the woes of an insane world, is a soundtrack of the most unconventional nature possible. A soundtrack that brings insanity to challenge your senses, make you laugh, scream in a manner that would make your mother worry about your current influences, or just simply something to remind you not to take yourself too seriously. If any two bands embody this spirit and built their foundations on it that would be, Mr. Bungle and Melvins. That is why it is exciting to see the two bands team up for a limited run US tour in 2023 together. A tour which finds Mr. Bungle playing cities they have not visited in two decades, on Tuesday, May 16th the tour touched down in Denver, Colorado.

Looking back at the rich history of these bands, ‘keep them guessing’ should have been the mission statement for Mr. Bungle when it formed in 1985. Their self-titled debut album from 1991 had listeners warped into sounds of a psycho circus on one song and flowing into a funk laden track laced with the oddest of lyrics about food. The unpredictability would continue with their next two albums 1995’s Disco Volante and 1999’s California. As if it was not enough to try and keep up with the changes from song to song, Mr. Bungle had no problem changing personalities in one track enough times to make you wonder if the writer had a multiple personality disorder. In fact, it was hard to believe that this band had ever been signed by a label like Warner Bros seeing as the genius was the very chaotic and unusual sounds of the band.

The core of the band always being Mike Patton and his generational vocals, joined with Trey Spruance on guitar, and Trevor Dunn on bass; however other members would come and go from the band, and may have led some fans to feel like it was a ‘side band.’ But the overall influence of the band on so many different genres would make the argument that it was just as important as the main projects in the band members’ lives. While the band members collaborated through the years it had seemed like Mr. Bungle was not going to be making a return, till 2019 when it was announced that the band was reuniting. Even more special was the joining of a couple guys you may have heard of, Dave Lombardo formerly of Slayer and Scott Ian of Anthrax infamy.

To add the proverbial cherry topper, they re-recorded their demo album The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny; an album that had a much more Thrash element so it is only fitting with the backgrounds of the new members. With bands finally returning to full tour mode, Mr. Bungle took the album on the road with another master of the unpredictable, the Melvins.

In its 40-year history Melvins have never been a band to deliver the same album twice. Granted their sound through the years has been different from the Approach of Mr. Bungle, their need to evolve has always been a bedrock of the band. Their slow and heavy sound that would go on to influence the birth of Sludge and Grunge was one core trait to the band that only served like a centerpiece to their albums, one listen to their debut release Gluey Porch Treatments one cannot deny through the rawness where numerous Seattle bands got some creative juice from.

While many may talk about the Seattle explosion and albums like Nirvana’s Nevermind (1991) or Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger (1991), one cannot overlook the epic Melvins’ 1993 release Houdini. Like Mr. Bungle’s own success with Warner Brothers being something most did not see coming, the same would apply with Melvins signing with Atlantic Records and delivering Billboard entering albums. So, if anyone ever tells you ‘unconventional music doesn’t sell,’ you know they are lying. While the band delivered two cornerstone albums with 1994’s Stoner Witch and 1996’s Stag, before being dropped they became more of a force after leaving. Not only did they start working with Mike Patton’s Ipecac Recordings to remaster their older material but they released some of their best and most experimental albums like 2001’s Colossus of Destiny and 2002’s Hostile Ambient Takeover. After releasing their 26th album in 2022, Bad Mood Rising, Melvins are on the road with Mr. Bungle this spring… and no one could wait to see what both of them would bring to Denver’s Mission Ballroom.

Getting the festivities started was a fresh band from the Ipecac Recordings roster, a three-piece band founded by husband-and-wife Mario and Sarah Quintero who added Drummer Chris Enriquez, called Spotlights. This band may be newer, but their list of accomplishments has already been growing at a dramatic rate.

To state the obvious, they got the attention of Mike Patton and company as they signed Spotlights to the label and have released their three albums, 2017’s Seismic, 2019’s Love and Decay, and just put out Alchemy for the Dead in April. But if that is not enough of a glowing recommendation, perhaps Chino Moreno of the Deftones who upon being introduced to their material took them on a summer tour with the Deftones. Within a few bars of their opening song “The Alchemist” it is clear to hear where the love affair with this band’s sound comes from.

Then, a hauntingly slow and dark groove crashed through the venue, completely locking in the audience as the layers to their massive sound begin to stack. A highlight to the set would have to be the track “Sunset Burial” with its hypnotic baseline and shoegazer-like feel. The sheer energy with tracks like the sonic crunch of “False Gods” or the unrelenting “Learn to Breathe,” proved their sound can be as heavy and dark as any Sludge Metal band one can find. With such a vast sound this is a band one could see with titans like Gojira and in the same breath open for Industrial legends Nine Inch Nails. This is a refreshing band Ipecac has brought forward for people to check out, and check it out you should not often one gets new fresh projects like this.

Up next was the Melvins and the crowd was fully warmed up from the unforgettable set from the Spotlights. Without a moment to waste Melvins went full force right from the start with an unmistakable bass intro signaling the song “Snake Appeal.” One observation, though Bassist Steven Shane McDonald is not an original member of the band between his play, antics, and gorgeous red thunderbird bass one would never think he was not there from the start. Add to this King Buzzo’s sludge riffs and unmistakable voice, and unreal drumming from Dale Crover, and Melvins proved that with time they, like wine, truly have gotten better.

As the band continued to get the crowd insane with tracks like “Zodiac” and “Copache,” one of the highlights to their set was their cover of the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, not only giving it the full Melvin treatment in slowing it down and adding a more sludge like feel, but showing as much as they are a band to not sleep on talent wise but a band who didn’t take themselves overly seriously. As some bands become less interesting in their later portions of their career, Melvins busted out two new tracks from their newer album Blood Mood Rising, “Hammering” and “Never Say You’re Sorry,” showing that with time they are still putting out absolutely crushing material.

One of the highlights for their set came with the song “Let it All Be” from 1999’s The Bootlicker album, as it had the whole audience swaying to the hypnotic grooves and psychedelic influences. Then, Melvins closed out with one of their staple tracks “Honey Bucket,” leaving an audience ready for more musical insanity from Mr. Bungle.

If music was meant to escape the craziness of the world outside, it is only appropriate that Mr. Bungle would get things kicked off with their own version of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” from Mr. Rogers; talk about chicken soup for the soul. That however is about as calm as it was going to get, without warning the band got right into the frantic all-out madness of “Bungle Grind” from the newly re-recorded The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny. This was all out thrash in its perfection, especially with the massive riffing of Scott Ian and ear shattering drums of Lombardo.

The next couple songs also from the new rerecording, “Eracist,” Spreading the Thighs of Death,” and “Hypocrites” which drove home that if you don’t own this album, your musical credentials are being revoked. Mr. Bungle never shied away from a good cover and paid homage to one of Scott Ian’s legendary bands S.O.D. (Stormtroopers of Doom) busting out “Speak English or Die.” Of course, with a founding member of Slayer in the band they made sure to play the intro to “Hell Awaits,” and yes it was a treat to hear them cover “Malfunction” by the Cro-Mags, however the biggest surprise was their cover of “Summer Breeze” by Seals and Crofts as Patton definitely added his own hysterical twist to it.

As the band closed out with a portion of “Territory” from Sepultura and “My Ass is on Fire,” one cannot even begin to explain how needed a show like that was. Nothing like crude humor, insane music, and a hell of a stage of talent can make even the worst of times seem worth it. If you have not caught this tour yet, there is still time to see it, so make it a point to see this one.

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Rafi Shlosman
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