The local metal band Kage played to a packed house at the Bayou Friday night and showed why people are calling it the Next Big Thing. The four-man band's average age is under 20, but its members are sure and steady onstage, plainly enjoying themselves.

The songwriting, mostly by lead singer and guitarist Jeff Brasfield, is the group's ace in the hole, and it is clearly improving. The songs from Kage's recent release "State of Mind" all have solid hooks and melodies, but it was the newer songs, like the more groove-oriented "The Chosen" and "Back Against the Wall," that stood out. The singing is dramatic without slipping into melodrama, and the arrangements are to the point. The limitations of the band are ones of technique, not of vision; the rhythm section lagged during many of the songs, and the guitar solos, shared by Brasfield and David Groves, frequently started with originality, only to end with sloppy Van Halenisms. But these are simply the problems of a young band.

It will be interesting to see where these four take their music, and they don't seem intimidated by the high expectations of the region's metal scene. They are moving beyond their obvious influences (AC/DC, Metallica etc.) into a sound of their own.