Usually at the end of every year we try to do a wrap-up of great music that we never got around to reviewing as the year went by and this has been a time to really kick out the stops and dig up cool shit. But sometimes we’re just not even connected to the underground enough to dig up all the stuff that’s being released—and trust me, there’s a ton of stuff being released. So here’s a “Thing You Might Have Missed” from 2010. Sure, it’s a couple of years late, but better late than never. And hopefully for the guys from Dofka this helps get some more publicity, because they sorely lack it and dearly deserve it. – AMG
As AMG so eloquently expressed, we missed this by like… a lot. Until AMG told me about these guys, I had heard absolutely NOTHING about them, and considering the quality on display on this album, it’s a bit of a shock. Given the mega-low profile of this album, this review might as well be titled “Things You DID miss.” Anywho, Dofka bear the name of founder/guitarist Jim Dofka and they play a very melodic, accessible brand of power-prog with similarities to classic Crimson Glory (especially Transcendence) Anubis Gate, Vanden Plas and Shadow Gallery. Humanity Bleak is their fourth album (apparently self-released) and it’s loaded with hooky vocal patterns, impressive riffing, nimble soloing, a very slick, quasi-neo-classical approach and a deft touch for melody and harmony. In short, it’s a barrel of rapid ear worms just dying to slither into your brain and lay eggs.
The first thing that struck me were the vocals of Andrew D’Cagna. The man has a great voice and excellent tone. He walks the line between Joachim Cans (Hammerfall) and Lance King (Balance of Power, Pyramaze) but he isn’t afraid to get darker and toss in some harsh screams and death gurgles. He has a voice that commands attention and really draws you into the music. When paired with the top flight riffing provided by Mr. Dofka and the high level of song craft they bring to the table, you get treated to some highly enjoyable tunes. Songs like “Tragedy Remains,” the title track, “Blood Runs Black” and “Immaculate Lie” all have a smooth-as-silk but melancholy feel to them that keeps me coming back for more and more. Other’s like “World on Fire” and “This Sacred Flame” have choruses that simply won’t be denied by man, beast or demigod.
What makes this such a pleasant find is how musical most of the material is. Mr. Dofka can play his ass off and crams a plethora of satisfying guitar flourishes and techy solos into every song while also keeping the main riffs tasty and memorable. As an additional feather in his metal cap, he restrains himself from getting all Dragonforce-y on your ass for the better part of the album (though “Evocation” comes pretty close at times). He shows his ample talent without clubbing you with it like you’re a baby seal. He also finds a great balance between heavy and soothingly melodic riffing and things never feel too lightweight or frilly.
While quite impressive, Humanity Bleak isn’t without its flaws. As good as most of the songs are, a few get dragged down by an occasional drift into nu-metal riffing and Korn-like vocals. The biggest culprit here is “Evocation,” which is a good song that segues into nu-metal pap late in the game and subsequently loses its focus. “Pine Avenue” suffers from a similar ailment, though it veers more toward Pantera worship than straight up nu-metal.
Overall, a surprisingly classy album that got overlooked by everybody and their aunt Tessie. If you enjoy your power-prog with a touch of extra heft and solid musicianship, you should hunt this album down. I myself am in the process of hunting down their older material and apparently, Dofka has a new album in the pipeline, though it seems they’ve lost the vocal services of Mr. D’Cagna, which is a damn shame. Not as shameful as our missing this in 2010 though. Oh the SHAME!!!