Top Secret Metal Fest 3 Conquers Memory Lanes


It had been five days since my last show. No, I wasn’t sick. It was my birthday on Thursday and my birthday present to myself was five days without shows. Five days of sitting at home on my ass after work and five days of drinking. As glorious as it was, I was ready for a show and was thrilled when Saturday came around.

Start rolling your eyes because I’m about to repeat myself for the millionth time– The Twin Cities metal scene is the best metal scene in the damn country if not world and yesterday was yet another day where we proved it. D.J. from Buried Above Ground came up with the idea of throwing a Top Secret Metal Fest three years ago. It’s a day full of music from the best up and coming local and regional bands and the location of the event isn’t announced until 24 hours prior to the event or until enough people get involved on Facebook. The first year the fest was held at a skate park, last year was at Amsterdam Bar & Hall in Saint Paul and this year was at a bowling alley. 

I walked into Memory Lanes in Minneapolis to see two giant stages on top of the middle section of bowling lanes. Now, these weren’t just a couple of risers set up, these were full on stages with a full on lighting rig behind each of them and loads of speakers to the sides. Memory Lanes is notorious for doing shows on the lanes and I have been to quite a few shows there before but I had never seen such a professional set up. I don’t know why I was surprised to see the elaborate set up, this was D.J. and this is the way he rolls. As I started wandering through the venue I felt more and more at home surrounded by my metal family. Although I was exhausted and still hungover from three days of constant birthday partying, I was ready to see what the day was going to bring.

With twenty bands on the line-up, there is no way I could tell you about everything that happened and everyone who played. I mean, I suppose I could but you probably wouldn’t read all of that and, let’s be honest, I have stuff to do and can’t sit here writing all day. But here’s a quick overview of some of my favorites:

  • Cymothoa– Okay, it’s no surprise that I’m a huge fan of these guys. After sitting down with this trio to do a track by track at the Twin Cities Media studio, I saw inside these three men’s mind and the genius behind their music. Cymothoa’s set on Saturday may have been short but it definitely packed a punch. Being the sole band without vocals during the whole day helped them stand out and their tricky guitar parts seemed to have majority of the growing crowd mesmerized. Although it seemed like they were having a hard time getting crowd participation, the crowd seemed to be enthralled in their set and, sure, people weren’t pushing and shoving through their set but they were definitely paying attention.
  • Druid– Druid seems to be the band that has truly taken the local metal scene by storm and I’d be willing to bet they are one of the next bands to truly take off from this scene. With a sounds that mixes the hardcore scene with the metal scene (although leaning more towards the metal side of things), this group is definitely a breath of fresh air in an almost over-saturated metal scene. Their music has a very new feeling to it and had the crowd going nuts. There wasn’t much space to move in front of the stages due to the ball returns and classic bowling tables in front of the stages but that didn’t stop the crowd from pushing each other around a bit during Druid’s set. 
  • Milestone– Definitely the biggest heartbreak of the day. Milestone was one of those bands that I would have been willing to bet was on their way to a supporting slot on a national tour and would be the next band to truly make this scene proud. Unfortunately, out of nowhere, the band announced that Saturday’s set would be their last. I almost wanted everything to go wrong during their set so I would be okay with that being their last show but it was perfect. Every single note and word was perfectly placed and, as heartbreaking as it was to know that this was their last set, at least they went out with a bang surrounded by the metal family that they quickly became the kings of.
  • Portraits of War– I don’t get to see these guys enough. Such a great, heavy, and tight local band that has an army of fans behind them. The amount of people walking around with Portraits merchandise trumped all of the other bands. Their short set was full of energy and fun. With the crowd moving around to the beat, there was no way to make it through Portraits’ set without a smile on your face or without bumping into a friend. 

I could go on and on about all of the talent that graced the two stages yesterday. There were bands that I had seen multiple times, bands I had never even heard of, bands that I absolutely loved and bands that I could go without seeing again. The point of yesterday was to show off just how great this scene is and, like all of the other events that go on throughout the year in the local metal scene, it did just that. If you didn’t like what was going on on the stage at any given time, you just had to wait a couple minutes and something else would be happening. Regardless of what was on the stage, you could be sure that you’d find yourself surrounded by friends and family and, honestly, that’s all that matters.

There were no strangers last night. If there was an unfamiliar face, they were quickly introduced to everyone and left the day with a slew of new brothers and sisters. That’s the way every scene should be and it’s something that every scene claims to be but nobody does it quite like the local Twin Cities metal scene.

Kudos to D.J. for pulling this off yet again. I know I’m not alone when I say I can’t wait to see what happens next year!

Here are some highlight photos of some of the bands captured:



A Prefabricated Lie

After Time

Death Wish