Starting off your EP with a three-minute clip of Muhammad Ali‘s braggadocio sampled over your riff metal is a pretty bold move. Ali‘s talk of wrestling alligators and being so mean he made medicine sick was arrogant when he let it loose in 1974, and it remains so 38 years later as it starts the six-track self-titled debut from Eindhoven four-piece Komatsu. That’s not to say every band isn’t convinced of their ultimate supremacy — or even that they shouldn’t be; I’ll gladly argue it essential for any artistic success whatsoever to at least have the balance of arrogance and self-consciousness tipped more toward the former — but still. Maybe Ali is less of a god in the Netherlands than American culture has built him up to be. I’d certainly believe that.
That opener is “The Mountain…” and it leads Komatsu into the High on Fire-style stoner metallurgy of their eponymous track. The real twists begin with the more melodic “Believe,” which offsets ’90s noise riffing à la Helmet with a smooth vocal — at least until the screams start and the band goes full-on into heavyweight groove. Guitarist/vocalist Erik van Schenk Brill and fellow six-stringer Mo Truijens work mostly in tandem, but there’s room for some interplay on “Komatsu” and “Believe” both, and they even work a little (just a little) harmony into the quick “Gator,” which is not only about the 1973 Burt Reynolds film White Lightning, but actually features a sample that I assume is taken from the trailer as its only vocals. It seems to be all bassist Martijn Mansvelders and drummer Miriam Bekkers can do to keep the charm from simply devouring the song whole, but the uptempo metal chug of the rhythm manages to do just that.
“Comin’” sounds like partial homage to Queens of the Stone Age, but van Schenk Brill‘s vocals are coming from somewhere else entirely, especially during the verse, the start-stop choppiness of which is near industrial compared to the more straightforward rock groove of the chorus. Komatsu — whose name you’ve seen advertised around construction zones for years now — do well with the change, and seem never completely to align themselves with one genre or another, other perhaps than the overarching tag of “heavy,” which, you know, no complaints. To underscore their pop-culture charm, they finish the EP that bears their moniker with “Hail to the King,” which boasts their strongest chorus and most engaging blend of influences, like Dozer met with Prong or something like-mindedly hypermasculine.
The EP was released late last year — I’ll admit, they got in touch a good long time ago — so a follow-up may or may not already be in the works, but in any case, I figured they were worth a look if you haven’t encountered them yet and were looking for something a little tougher this evening than the usual bit of fuzz and roll. You can hit up Komatsu on their website or check out the EP stream from Bandcamp before you drop a line on Thee Facebooks and tell them I said hi and that I apologize for it taking so long for me to write on their tunes. Here’s that Bandcamp stream if you’re up for digging in: