Review: Czakan – Unreal

Review: Czakan – Unreal

Pride & Joy Music (April 14th 2023)

Reviewer: Jason Hopper

Czakan are back after an over thirty-year hiatus, reuniting all of the original members for their sophomore album. For those unfamiliar with the band, they originally released their debut album way back in 1989. While I enjoyed reviewing their debut album (which was recently re-released) I was not sure I wanted to review their new one. There was initially no single and I had my doubts about what the band would sound like after not playing together for over 3 decades.  When first single (and opening track) ‘Free Line’ was released, I heard 30 seconds of it and immediately requested to review the album. The band sounded energized in a way that I was not expecting. If this isn’t a left-over track from a never released second outing, then I’m even more surprised.  A killer riff and groove that takes me right back to the 80s.

While that track is my favorite on the album, there are lots of great songs to be found here.  ‘Getting Hungry’ dials things back a bit and goes for a more AOR approach but offers a great melody line and groove. ‘Living in a Nightmare’ is another favorite that sounds like a rocker you would hear from Bonfire or Frontline from back in the day. ‘Get Down’ takes its inspiration from Slade to give an energetic, groove-laden thumper that’s sure to please.

While keyboardist Tom Fein concedes himself to the background and help fill out the sound of the band, he does step up to take the reins on ‘Burns Like a Flame’ and ‘Under the Gun’.  Regarding the latter song, I immediately thought of the band Urgent within 30 seconds of the song. I know I have name checked a bunch of bands in this review, but I don’t want to sell Czakan short as just a band that takes from other European bands. They pull from numerous influences to create a sound that many of those bands could never pull off today.

I did find there to be a lull later in the album with the tracks ‘She is a Woman’ and ‘Winners Don’t Cry’. Vocalist Michael Schennach exhibits low energy in the prior track and the latter track does not have a compelling chorus and emotionally fails to resonate with me. Luckily the dip is brief, and the album picks right back up with ‘My Sweet Love’, powered by a fantastic riff from guitarist Oliver Güttinger. The album concludes with ‘Show Me All Your Love’, featuring a wonderful interplay between another fabulous riff from Oliver, with keyboardist Tom filling in the song with holding notes that are nothing flashy but fill the song with a backdrop that elevates the melody and thereby expanding the overall sound, making the track sound more epic as a result.

This is a rare breed of a release. I can’t recall any band who recorded one album nearly thirty-five years ago and got back together to pick up right where they left off. I prefer this album to their debut. If you checked out their initial release and enjoyed it, then this is a no brainer purchase. If you never heard the band before, I would suggest seeking this album out first and then go back to their beginning. Maturity and growth have rewarded these members in ways I never would have anticipated. Surely the surprise of the year for me.

Track Listing:

  1. Free Line
  2. Getting Hungry
  3. Breaking All the Rules
  4. Living in a Nightmare
  5. Get Down
  6. Burns Like a Flame
  7. Under the Gun
  8. City Nights
  9. Masquerade
  10. She is a Woman
  11. Winners Don’t Cry
  12. My Sweet Love
  13. Locked in a Cage
  14. Show Me All Your Love