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Up for review here is Jim Dofka’s first “solo” full-length, and the only thing that would bear the Dofka name for another fifteen or so years (other than a demo thrown in there somewhere). Even for a 1990 release, the original recording – no idea if it’s been cleaned up at all over the years – is quite lousy. Seriously, I’ve heard live recordings that sound better than this, here it almost seeming as if they just stuck a couple of mics in the center of the room and had at it. Despite this, the quality is still pretty high, and the disc comes recommended to a range of fans.
“Toxic Wasteland” borrows just about equally from several styles, those being late 80s thrash, late 80s power (Helloween), and, well, late 80s traditional (Maiden). You’ve got the all-out speed of, appropriately enough, “Speed Mental”, a song which also features the slightest hint of a Savatage-like operatic nature, mostly in the lead guitar department. Contrasting this is the mid-paced crawl of “There is no More”. The rest of the songs fall into that range, with most tending towards the speedier side of things. Indeed, the faster numbers generally fare better, with cuts like the title track and “Doctor of Death” being especially exciting, at times like an American version of early Blind Guardian with more of a traditional and thrash slant.
Jim Dofka has since made the rounds, and it’s easy to see why – he’s quite the talent on guitar. Lots of enticing riffs combine with terrific soloing to form a very tasty sound. Actually, the leads at times approach an almost neoclassical feel, putting the band roughly fifteen years ahead of their time with what’s now becoming a popular approach to power metal. Of course, not everything has this flair – witness the sheer power of the ripping lead about halfway through the title track. Beyond Dofka, the rest of the band is still pretty solid, though perhaps less noteworthy. Singer Chet Miller possesses the requisite voice that’s high without being ear-piercing, and generally powerful enough to make the songs sound convincing, perhaps like a thinner-sounding Eric AK. Actually, he does come across as a little TOO thin and stretched at times, but that could easily be the fault of the production. The bass is audible but essentially just mirrors the rhythm section, so nothing really fancy there. Drummer Dave Snyder more than holds his own, using the double bass very well when called for. Again, nothing mind-blowing for sure, but very solid nonetheless.
Aside from the crappy production this one’s pretty much a winner. Fans of a host of styles from the 80s – speed, thrash, power, and so on – should find something to enjoy here. This means bands like Savatage, Paradox, F&J, hell, even throw in Manowar. Good stuff, easily recommended if you can find it and crave a throwback to the days when power metal meant something completely different than it does circa-2006.