Metal Misfits

Maybe it's because I don't listen to a lot of it in my off hours, but I'm constantly surprised by the depth and quality of the Phoenix metal scene. I've yet to have a bad local metal record come across my desk, and this week didn't change that.

Hemoptysis isn't the second coming of Slayer, but for a band that's only been together since 2007, their EP Who Needs a Shepherd? is solid. The band's tempo is a throwback to the mid-'80s golden era of thrash, though with Masaki Murashita's guttural growl instead of singing.

Shepherd opens with "Shadow of Death," built around a catchy chord progression and thunderstorm-in-a-tin-shack drums that give way to a sludgy refrain. The title track begins with a damned spoken word voiceover but when things start going, about a minute in, they go well. The anthemic guitar solo about two minutes in has all the drama of a Queensrÿche solo, with a crunchy bass accompaniment.

The opening riffs to "And the World Dies" sound a lot like a lower-key version of the opening riff of Billy Idol's "White Wedding" to me, but the rest of the song is not quite as catchy as Idol's. Likewise, "All for You" is boring, the same riff taking up most of the song's four minutes, with only a few seconds' break after each round. The closer, "A Traitor," is a return to form, punishing drums and a hard-charging riff along with some of the most aggressive vocals on the record.

It's probably not gonna get any non-metal fans seeking out vintage Anthrax albums, but Who Needs a Shepherd? is another quality offering from a Phoenix metal band. I look forward to hearing what they do on their first full-length.

Sat., April 25, 8 p.m., 2009