Cleveland's power/speed metal band issued Toxic Wasteland on the band's own World Nations Records in January of 1991 before licensing it for Europe to Black Dragon. The entire album solely featured vocalist Scot Edgell and guitarist Jim Dofka. The band returned with a six-song demo in 1992 called Bow To Thee. The boys went on hiatus until 1999 when the band re-issued the debut and appeared on Mercyful Fate and Dio tribute albums. A demo called Wrecking Ball appeared in 2005. Singer Andrew D’Cagna, Jim Dofka, bassist James Babcock and drummer Mike Barnett issued a full-length demo, called Humanity Bleak, in 2010. Babcock had been in This Tortured Soul with former singer Scot Edgell. The band was now based in Pittsburgh.
DOFKA - HUMANITY BLEAK
This was the definition of power metal before some European wimps hauled out the keyboards from the closet, cut off their manhood, lobotomized their brains, got on the cover of something called Metal Hammer and still, somehow, got to take over the description!
Dofka is the genuine article though. No keyboards, no female crooning opera, no lipstick, no girlfriends cooking on the tour bus (and later doing female backing vocals/cello/violin/triangle) and a real heavy sound. The band’s music is a tribute to the US metal sound, albeit with melodic vocals and could be described as being related to Icarus Witch. The analogy is an easy and obvious one since the bands hail from the same area and Jim Dofka has worked with his state-mates, but the music obviously also bears it. Like IW, Dofka keeps its metal under restraint and barely moves up the speed dial. Both opener Tragedy Remains and Evocation keep a firm grip on the tempo, while delivering a solid offering. The former has atypical backing vocals, while the latter tune, with its morbid lyrics, carries some evil growls. The song though starts with a riff Ratt would have loved to make its own circa 1984. Pure glam. The rhythm section, though, soon establishes itself as the group’s heavier half with drummer Mike Barnett executing some mean fills. This man knows the value of doing something different, not to mention heavy bass drums. Unfortunately, the production ruins his tom sound. The Bitter End is up next and rips more than the preceding songs. The drumming is fabulous. The songs are well above average and a definite insider’s tip for heavy metal fans. Beginning song six, Second God, the level is slightly lower however, but nothing of which the band should be ashamed. Jim Dofka, by the way, is an underrated guitar man. His dexterity and chops display a penchant for sounding like a cross between Andy La Rocque and Alex Skolnick and that is no joke.
Like the sticker in Iron Maiden font says, this is 'true metal.' And Andrew DCagna might channel Rob Lowe once in a while, but this isn’t epic doom metal. More like epic metal metal.
Yes, a demo, but the round thing and its wrapper probably has better packaging and sound than most established releases. Hopefully, the band will now focus on itself, stop wasting time, cease playing cover versions and get some credit. Just a little more speed next time please. - Ali “The Metallian”