Album Review – Ahola / Tug Of War (2014)

A new Teräsbetoni album would have been a lot better for all of us.

Rating6

coverIt looks like Finnish singer and songwriter J. Ahola is really determined to go on with his solo project, Heavy Metal/Hard Rock band Ahola, which means that unfortunately there’s no sign of a new Teräsbetoni album anytime soon. In fact, Ahola seems to be his main band now, not only a project, but I really wish it was the other way round, especially after listening to his new album Tug Of War.

Albeit Ahola’s new album is a million light-years away from being bad music, and the musicians involved are very competent, Tug Of War lacks all that originality and especially the punch from any of the Teräsbetoni albums. In other words, for a guy that has been in a band responsible for powerful classics such as “Taivas Lyö Tulta”, “Metallisydän” and “Missä Miehet Ratsastaa”, it’s hard to accept generic material with song titles like “I Need You” and “Dog”, and it’s even worse due to the bland way he’s using his voice.

The End of the Line opens the album and, despite its promising intro, lacks a lot of energy in its entirety, especially J. Ahola’s vocals which are not what we all wanted to hear. Road of Creation is a more Doom Metal track with his voice sounding a lot better, but again it’s not a great song; and the title-track Tug of War is stronger than the previous tracks but still lacks that “it” factor.

Tug Of War continues with the two best songs of all: On the Run, a nice Hard Rock track with an interesting chorus; and  Still Metal, a song that keeps us wondering how awesome the whole album would have been if it had the same Manowar-ish approach as here. Fortunately, Rock’n’Roll is another solid song (although too generic) that keeps the momentum, but on the other hand One Among the Crowd is a weak ballad and the worst track of all, and followed by the generic The Final Incantation drags the album back to just regular.

AholaThings do not get better with The Will You Always Had, a totally forgettable song, and I Need You, which sounds like a tired Teräsbetoni playing. And finally, we have Dog, an average Hard Rock track with a bad chorus (feel like a dog, really?); Age of Hubris, with some good riffs to elevate the album level a little; and Beerland 2, a total waste of time.

And I’m not even complaining about the fact he’s singing in English now, as I understand (although do not agree) that the Finnish language was kind of limiting his boundaries. The real problem here is that Ahola sound like a sell-off, like something made just for money. I know we cannot expect Ahola and Teräsbetoni to be the same, but it’s sad to see such a talented Power Metal musician, a guy that loves Manowar, Rainbow and Deep Purple, doing some generic material. May the power of the mighty Odin open his eyes and take him back to what he does best: awesome Power Metal.

Best moments of the album: On the Run and Still Metal.

Worst moments of the album: One Among the Crowd, The Final Incantation, The Will You Always Had and Beerland 2.

Released in 2014 Playground Music

Track listing
1. The End of the Line 4:30
2. Road of Creation 5:15
3. Tug of War 4:02
4. On the Run 3:17
5. Still Metal 4:03
6. Rock’n’Roll 3:48
7. One Among the Crowd 4:27
8. The Final Incantation 5:18
9. The Will You Always Had 3:16
10. I Need You 4:29
11. Dog 4:20
12. Age of Hubris 3:28
13. Beerland 2 2:24

Band members
J. Ahola – vocals, guitar
Jari Laitinen – bass
Antti Mäkelä – drums
Antti Karhumaa – lead guitar

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5 thoughts on “Album Review – Ahola / Tug Of War (2014)

  1. I actually like Ahola’s singing in english, specially when he’s pronounce isn’t so bad as many other finnish vocalists… But I agree that his work lacks a lot of feeling when done in english.
    Apparently there is a “tendency” of “oldschool” Power Metal heroes from Finland to be doing things with much more “generic” approach. And it’s not always something made just to be commercial, it’s just the moment the local scenario is going through, I guess. Fever of the season. Just check the new stuff from Stratovarius or its members’ side projects. Same happened to less furious bands from other places of Europe, like Edguy (I’m still shocked by “Love Tyger” 😀 )

    Growing pains… let’s see what comes next.

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  2. Blah, blah, blah… Teräsbetoni is not even power metal. The man doesn’t even like it. AHOLA is a band that plays the kind of music he would like to listen to nowadays, and actually there’s people that likes it more than Teräsbetoni. So please, speak for yourself and not for “all of us” when giving your opinion.

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    • Hello, “A”! Thanks for your comment!

      Sorry, but if Teräsbetoni is not Power Metal, I have absolutely no idea of what would be. And if J. Ahola doesn’t even like it, why did Teräsbetoni get back together in July 2013 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the band? Was it just for money? If so, then that just corroborates he’s focusing on Ahola for money. And why did he release a song called “Still Metal” as the first single of his new album? I guess that was a message for the Teräsbetoni fans, which believe me, are a lot more numerous than the Ahola fans.

      And I didn’t say Tug Of War is bad, it’s just not as powerful as any Teräsbetoni album. The songs are OK, but too generic or commercial if compared to the greatness of “Taivas Lyö Tulta”, for example. Even not loving Tug Of War, I keep listening to it because of his voice, but of course, skipping a few bad songs. 😉

      He could have carried on with Teräsbetoni AND Ahola at the same time, that would have been really interesting, because one band’s music kind of complements the other’s. But only Ahola seems too bland.

      Anyway, thanks again for your comment. It’s nice to know how other people like you see the same music from a different perspective.

      Keep on rockin’!

      https://theheadbangingmoose.wordpress.com/

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  3. I strongly doubt that J. Ahola focusing on AHOLA for the money at all – considering that both AHOLA records are totally done and financed, from songwriting to the production, by him and the band itself and they are using Playground just for the distribution. On the other hand Teräsbetoni was signed to Warner Music Finland, a major label as you know, so even that doesen’t back up your speculations. J. Ahola has several times said, that AHOLA is a project to play the music he likes, a possibility to concentrate to music as it is, without any given goals. They have not given up Teräsbetoni, by the way, but from the interviews I get an impression that they are out of ideas where to go with the band. The concept is kind of strict and then there are the Finnish music scene which isn’t the most open minded around ….

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    • Hi, loppui juominen!

      So, you ran out of booze? (that’s what your name says!)

      I agree with parts of your comment… A few years ago signing with a major label would make a lot more difference to a band, but today where selling albums has become irrelevant due to illegal downloads, and touring and selling merchandise is what really matters, singing in English and having a more commercial approach became more profitable. Tug Of War is not a bad album, it’s just not as mighty as it could be, got it?

      I don’t know how Teräsbetoni ran out of ideas… The concept is indeed strict, but so is it for many other bands. I saw Turisas and Korpiklaani yesterday, and even doing the same thing for years, they still kick ass. And Korpiklaani sings entirely in Finnish (I guess I don’t need to tell you that), so that’s not an excuse. 🙂

      And the Finnish music scene is not narrow minded, there are tons of unique bands around there which people love! As I mentioned, I saw two of them yesterday!

      Kiitoksia paljon!

      https://theheadbangingmoose.wordpress.com/

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