365 Days of Mike Patton: “Ars Moriendi,” Mr. Bungle (1999)

There are quite a few Mr. Bungle songs that change drastically in tone throughout a four-minute song.

They’ll go from jazz to death metal. They’ll go from klezmer to operatic. They’ll go from doo-wop to, I don’t know, scatological. That’s what “Ars Moriendi,” from Mr. Bungle’s final album California, accomplishes. Though California is certainly Mr. Bungle’s most accessible album—and it is, by far, my favorite—NME calls the band, which formed a few years before Patton was tapped as Faith No More’s lead singer, his “truest, sickest love.”

The song title is Latin, and it means “art of dying.” And man, it is schizophrenically paced.

NME describes it as “mixing Arabian skirmishes with blitzing metallic riffage and note-perfect [elevator] muzak.” All of that is true. But the 29 seconds I love the best are the raging Arabian-tinged techno beat that morphs into downright hard rock (it goes from 1:17 to 1:46 in the song). It harkens back to Mr. Bungle’s second album on the song titled “Desert Search for Techno Allah” (don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll get to it.).

Also, the final lyrics of the song are fantastic. “So feast on me/All my bones are laughing/As you’re dancing on my grave.” It reminds me a little of the title track off FNM’s King For a Day when he sings, “Don’t let me die with that silly look in my eye.”

I dig those kinds of vague sort of callbacks to earlier parts of Patton’s career. I have no idea if Patton did that on purpose. But I kind of like to imagine that he did.

To follow along on the 365 days of Patton, click here for a list of each day’s post.

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