Review: Czakan – State of Confusion (Re-Release)
Pride & Joy Music (February 17th, 2023)
Reviewer: Jason Hopper
Czakan are a melodic rock band that formed in the mid-80s, releasing their one and only album (thus far…) in 1989. They promoted it by touring Germany, opening for Uriah Heep, before disbanding for reasons not discussed in the press release. They apparently have reformed, which makes this the perfect time to re-release their debut album to show the world what they’ve been missing.
And what have we been missing? An excellent hard rock album in the vein of bands like Bonfire, Craaft, and other bands that were prominent in the German metal scene. Anyone who was into late 80s European rock will want to seek out this band.
Opening with ‘State of Confusion’, the listener is greeted with some pronounced harmonies and a sci-fi intro that leads to a solid guitar-screaming groove very reminiscent of other bands from the time period. Familiar, but very effective.
Next up is the equally solid ‘Tears’. I love the rhythm in the verses and the slow down in the bridge just before the burst of energy that accompanies the chorus. However, the chorus is a bit of a let-down in that it’s too vocally busy. Lead singer Michael Schennach sings the lyrics while the background vocals sing a different set of lyrics and all of it is at the same levels, creating a overlap that muddles the sound. In contrast, later track ‘Rock Will Survive’ has a perfect utilization of gang vocals that makes the chorus soar and compels the listener to sing along. It’s one of the best tracks found on this release.
‘Rock Will Survive’ is part of what I call the triple attack. Three killer songs in a row that are the pinnacle of the album (Tracks 6, 7, and 8). First up is the very Bonfire-esque ‘So Cold’, with its opening being reminiscent of the track ‘Sword and Stone’. As an old-school Bonfire fan, this track could have come off their Fireworks album and will surely be a favourite track for fans of 80s melodic rock. ‘Eyes of The Gods’ takes the trophy for best riff. I am a sucker for bands that stop almost all of their instruments to let the guitar take the spotlight and showcase the main riff at the opener and guitarist Oliver Güttinger tears it up! The best guitar solo is found on this track as well. I listened to this track five times in a row before moving onto the rest of the album. Then when I thought I had heard my favourite track on the album, along comes ‘Rock Will Survive’, a mid-tempo basher with a simple but incredibly effective chorus.
Due in no small part to those songs collected together, I did find the second half of the album to be stronger than the first. Following those three songs is the fast paced, almost metallic ‘Thunder and Lightning’ and then an abrupt tempo change with the ballad ‘Too High To Touch’. Both songs are sonically diametrical but effective in their delivery to stir both the blood and the heart, respectively.
The band does have several things working against them. The album has been remastered, but the original production deficits are still evident. It is sonically decent but unremarkable and markedly below the sound of other German bands at that time. It has the recording quality of something you would expect from the early 80s, not the late 80s. If I had to guess, I would say the studio they recorded in did not have the updated recording equipment to match the sound production of the times. The band name is also problematic. It doesn’t roll off the tongue and it’s hard to get good word of mouth if people interested don’t know how to say or forget how to spell the name of the band. I am going to take a guess here and say that it rhymes with “bacon”?
I have never heard of this band before and I’m glad the group is getting a chance to be rediscovered. It’s interesting to hear that they plan on giving it a go again nearly 35 years after their debut. Has a band ever done a “one and done” album only to return to the scene after a three-decade absence? One would think the magic would be gone or at least diminished, but I’m rooting for them. This is a great collection of songs and if they can replicate what made this album so special, then we are going to be in for the surprise album of the year. Best of luck, gentlemen.