“Tug of War” is the second album from Finnish rock band, Ahola, named after their frontman Jarkko Ahola (also Teräsbetoni, Raskasta Joulua). Two years after their first release, “Stoneface”, Ahola are back with a new, thirteen song album. Similarly to the last record, the first, pre-release samples made the listener fear that the full-length album is pure chaos but luckily, I now know that this is absolutely not the case. So, if the teaser (http://youtu.be/2sInPYAVY7c) is too chaotic for you, don´t worry and give the album a chance. Only when listening to the entire record, the songs resolve and you will see structure emerging from the chaos.
Throughout the first half of the record, I have the feeling that the band didn´t really dare to leave their comfort zone and hence, they play it safe. The second half has a few less commercial songs, which are, however, also a bit chaotic. But in general, they play it safe with the songs. One also notices that there are influences from old songs, causing one or the other déjà-vu moment but I think that´s ok. Sometimes, the songs are no light fare and maybe for some people they are too complicated. One has to listen carefully to understand the music but it should be well-known by now that Ahola don´t write “easy” songs.
Once more, Jarkko Ahola gets his vocal chords, especially in the high ranges, to burst - it shows what an incredible singer he is. What I am missing, though, is the emotional value that was still present on the last record (“Restless”, “Stoneface” or “Hurt you”). With “One Among the Crowd” there is also a ballad on “Tug of War”, surely influenced by Jarkko´s musical idols, Roy Orbinson and Queen - a very beautiful song. Music- and vocal-wise, there is nothing to criticize but the antagonism between chorus and verse is like Jekyll and Hyde: on the one side very emotional and mellow and on the other very aggressive and chaotic. It surely comes from the bottom of the heart but for me it does not always hit the right balance. If you ask me, “Tug of War” is not as strong as “Stoneface” but it is still a great record and you should listen to it. Now.