Dofka - Humanity bleak 3.5/5

Reviewed: 6-1-10


1. Tragedy remains
2. Evocation
3. The bitter end
4. World on fire
5. Humanity bleak
6. Second god
7. Blood runs black
8. Immaculate lie
9. This sacred flame
10. 23 Pine Avenue

You know, it's funny. As reviewers, or heavy metal fans, or people in general I suppose, we all take comfort in being able to classify things in neat little boxes. Maybe it's our sense of order, our innate desire to combat the universe's inexorable tendency toward chaos, but we love to slap a label on something and move on. And let's face it, today's heavy metal scene is populated by all-too-prevalent cookie cutter bands (many of whom are featured on this site, and many of whom I make no bones about enjoying immensely) whose style fits into such a narrow band of the musical spectrum that it reinforces and greatly facilitates the genre-classification exercise. As the saying goes, these bands run the gamut from A to B.

All of which makes it infinitely more interesting when an act like Dofka comes along. I've read descriptions of this 'Humanity bleak' CD that compare the band to such disparate acts as Angel Dust, Vanden Plas, Nevermore, Iron Maiden, Solitude Aeturnus, Vicious Rumors, Conception, and Black Label Society. 'Humanity bleak' has been characterized as power/thrash, guitar shred, traditional metal, and even American progressive metal with elements of death metal. So which is it? Who's right? What is this Dofka and what do they sound like? More importantly, are they good?

Dofka are a quartet from the mid-western U.S. (Pittsburgh, I think). Led by guitarist/respected shredder Jim Dofka, this is hardly a new band. Dofka's debut CD, 'Toxic wasteland', dates all the way back to 1990. So the man's been plying his trade for a long time. With the resurgence of traditional-leaning metal in recent years, Dofka decided to ramp up band activities, including this self-released 'Humanity bleak' CD and an eagerly-anticipated performance at this year's Warriors of Metal Festival in Ohio. Style-wise, 'Humanity bleak' is a well-conceived, thoughtfully blended stew of ingredients from many different metal styles, with the divergent components working together in harmony for the most part. The core of Dofka's music is late-80s/early-90s catchy song-oriented midtempo U.S. metal, like a heavier Queensryche. There's plenty of flashy guitar histrionics, courtesy of Mr. Dofka, but they're extremely well integrated in the songs and serve to add color, depth and texture to the tracks, rather than being self-indulgent, spotlight-stealing exercises. That said, it would be a dire error to lump Dofka in with the cadre of aging dinosaur rockers stuck in the 80s. 'Humanity bleak' is a very contemporary sounding metal CD. The modernish pounding groove elements surface in most of the songs, and there is significant use of growly vocals, albeit thankfully in a secondary capacity to the soaring, clear voice of lead singer Andrew D'Cagna. And while the music is almost exclusively mired in midtempo, there are definitely spots where Annihilator-type thrash influences are visible, side-by-side with King Diamond/Memento Mori-style guitar flourishes. After a great deal of thought and reflection, I'd suggest that the best description for Dofka's music these days is that it's like 90s Colorado band Psycho Drama (circa their fine 'The illusion' opus) with a massive infusion of crunchy heaviness, a turbo-boost in the guitar department, and an overall updated approach. Not immensely illuminating, I know, but it's the best I've got.

What should not be lost in the genre conundrums is that 'Humanity bleak' is well done. The songwriting, while not uniformly excellent and sometimes a bit formulaic and samey, includes a number of outstanding tracks ("Tragedy remains", "World on fire", "Immaculate lie"). The production job is fantastic, belying the independent release status of this CD. The musicians' performances are spot-on, with vocalist D'Cagna and guitarist Dofka turning in especially noteworthy efforts. I can see 'Humanity bleak' appealing to a wide range of metalheads, roping in the crusty old-school bangers along with a fair helping of younger whippersnappers. So give it a shot. Despite its lack of record label backing, 'Humanity bleak' enjoys wide distribution and should be readily available from your favorite mailorder purveyors of all things heavy.




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