Photos by David Rubene and Fred Sobottka.
There are a lot of perks of beings friends with The Girl At The Rock Shows aka Twin Cities Media resident metalhead – Langen Goldstien. Sometimes you get to be her plus one for gigantic shows at US Bank Stadium. Sometimes she takes you to really cool underground hip hop shows. Sometimes she sends you great music from some rad up & coming local bands. And other times she asks you to fill in for the annual Top Secret Metal Fest. I was intimidated at the idea of covering Saturday’s Top Secret Metal Fest with such a large local line-up. Being friends with Langen, as well as one of our resident metal photographer – David Rubene, I’ve come to learn the Twin Cities really one of the most vibrant and interesting metal scenes. Although I might not know the full ins and outs of the scene as others, I do know is there is a hell of a lot of talent in our humble little Twin Cities area and beyond. In its 4th year running, this years evolution of the Top Secret Metal Fest was a serious treat to cover. With all these bands coming together to support one another, the energy was fantastic.
Here’s what else I loved about Top Secret Metal Fest before I even got there. SECRET! I love the idea of a secret show with a secret venue that is not released until 24 hours prior to the show. There is something about anything “secret” that gives you that giddy feeling of a kid on Christmas Eve. And I quickly got the feeling that I wasn’t the only one who loved this idea of “secret” as I arrived at The Cabooze on Saturday with a friend. Though it was early in the day (doors opened for the fest at 12PM), and the humidity was already growing outside, that didn’t stop metal fans from showing up to rock out at The Cabooze. There was a palpable energy at The Cabooze as fans filtered back and forth from the inside stage to the outdoor patio stage. Fans and band members alike were there to enjoy a day of great live music and a few cold beers along the way.
I’d like to preface by saying there were so many great bands that played on Saturday, that there aren’t enough words to say about each band but I’d like to share the highlights and standout moments below. With such a large number of bands in the line-up, organization was key. The Top Secret Metal Fest sets were fairly short and sweet, so it kept the day moving along quickly. It felt like a revolving door of one great act after another which really didn’t leave time for any dull moments during the day.
Ataraxia kicked things off promptly at 12:30p and wasted no time getting down to business. Their hardcore sound quickly had the crowd hooked in and set a great tempo for the day ahead.
Hardship kicked off the outside stage. Even with the sun and the heat of the day beating down on them, these guys clearly raised the bar. They dominated their set and lit up the days first (of many) mosh pits.
Agony Reigns lit up the stage inside the Cabooze. Being a late addition to the line-up, these guys brought their ‘A-Game’ to the stage. With members all south of 21, they tore up their set and left the crowd completely stunned. If they are already this solid at this age, then time will only tell what these guys will be like with a few more years under their belt. Truly impressive.
King of Tyrus took full command of their set with hard-hitting sound and almost story-like lyrics. The unique vocals of singer Josiah Prosser added a bit of dark presence to the music.
The Cambion made the trek all the way from Indiana to play the Fest … and so glad they were at the Fest. Anyone thinking of afternoon nap clearly had their mind quickly changed. These guys lit up the indoor stage with a set that was direct, to the point, and full of energy.
Constants and Variables changed things up a bit. Admittingly, I was completely blown away! Their melodic sound and variation was very impressive. And to see a great crowd response was very pleasing
Vvolf Mask’s energy and off the wall set was absolutely captivating to watch. The drummer’s energy was contagious as he was slamming away at the kit I couldn’t help but watch. I couldn’t tell you exactly what it was I loved about Vvolf Mask, but something about their set and their energy had me hooked. They are a band I would absolutely go see again.
Common Choir‘s set on the outdoor stage proved to everyone that the Fest-Party was just getting started. These guys nailed it! Their hardcore driving set seized the moment and had the outside crowd totally involved from the start. High-energy was the name of the game.
Immortalis brought serious deathcore to the Fest. Making the trip from Wisconsin, these guys wasted no time to get things moving. Their set was complete rapid fire end to end, with the crowd being the victims of a great performance.
Mithya took over the outdoor stage later in the day. This band has recently been on a break so it was nice to see them back in the Twin Cities and I think that good energy and excitement from the crowd was definitely felt during their set. Lee Mintz, lead vocalist, was on tour with Drewsif Stalin. Lee is one of the guys that is always at local shows so it was nice him back here in the Twin Cities.
AfterTime’s symphonic metal also put on a hell of set on the indoor stage. Frontwoman Sarah Wolf stunned the crowd with her powerhouse vocals. Rounding out AfterTime is Chris Radke – Guitar, Brad Sturgis – Guitar, Patton Hudella – Bass, AJ Blakesley – Drums. We had the opportunity to catch up with AfterTime a few months back for a Track by Track session. It was refreshing moment in the day to see a female on stage. As someone who loves so many great female bands and female artists, I was glad to see Wolf take center stage for a moment. I would love to see even more female vocalists and instrumentalists in future years.
My Zero was one of my many favorites from the day. Singer John Wheeler was very animated and went into crowd and sang & danced with others. He posed and was in constant motion. The crowd loved it and gave a huge response to the song “Work Is The Curse of the Drinking Class”.
Mirror of Being played an extremely tight set. Being on stage, they did what they do best and had the crowd moshing in no time. Hard driven and to the point.
The Omega Sequence was hardcore through and through. Singer Justin Sherman nailed the set, doing so with bare feet. Lots of activity on stage and in the crowd. The set was powerful and definitely claimed their share of the supportive response from the day.
The Culture Of also blew me away with frontman Nick Westlunds’ dark and gravely, raspy vocals. However the entire band played with a frecoisity that was riveting to watch.
Coffinrot was badass and hammered a mix of death metal and even a sprinkle of black metal tracks throughout their set.
Towards the end of the evening Druid blasted their set with a full hardcore non-stop pounding. Frontman Noah Lecuyer was absolutely on fire and nailed the vocals for a set that was gold. This band is making waves in the local scene in a major way and can’t wait to see what tours are in the future for this band. There is huge potential for them to the be next crown jewel of metal music.
Intrinsic slammed through their set. Melodic and solid set that drew in the crowd from outside. These guys are another act that seems poised for big things in the Twin Cities and beyond.
Terraform’s sound was also infectious and even as someone who doesn’t know much about this scene or genre, I found myself hooked on their sound. The bands playing was mathematical and calculated. Their sound is precise as if each and every note has its place. Technically speaking – their sound and playing was absolutely on point. And though there was precision to their sound, there were still some surprising breakdowns along the way.
Fail To Decay capped off the night with a powerfully brutal set. This sent the crowd into full overdrive and was 100% badass. Bassist James Benson was a complete animal and displayed an unstoppable energy that helped the band dominate their set to the very end.
Big thanks to all the great bands, for The Cabooze, all the event sponsors, and DJ Gunnarson for organizing this event for the 4th year running. There was no better way to spend a Saturday which turned out to be more interesting than most. It was cool to be able to step out of my normal and cover a day of amazing live music. I watched band after band shred through sets and truly support each other. #oursceneisbetterthanyours