Up and down the country, you hear the same story: venues are closing down and local music scenes are at times, struggling to keep going. In Liverpool, we have lost some great venues which had a rich history and to be honest, things are looking shit as far as non-branded (read: 02 academy) locations are concerned. With Maguires Pizza Bar being the latest casualty, one last big night of Pizza, Beers and Death Metal was called for, and who better than Neuroma, one of the most infamous bands in UK Death Metal to send the place off in style. After all, the five piece have only reformed for one or two final shows: UK Slamfest and this one, their final hometown show.

With pizza consumed and beers in hand, it was time for Exhumation. The five piece are a growing force in the UK’s Death Metal scene and they have had plenty of praise thrown their way by peers, press-types and legends. Having played Manchester the night before, the guys were well prepared for an eager crowd and they delivered. Coming out hard and heavy, the bands no nonsense, straight up death metal approach worked well. Fierce vocal growls, punishing drums, an unforgiving low-end presence and tight guitar riffs land siege to the rapidly filling up room and the sound was spot on. “Flatline” and “Sin of Skin” were just as hard hitting as always. The Slam-friendly sections got people’s heads going, the heaviness of the music and the intensity of the delivery got plenty of approving looks and by the time things were wrapped up, Exhumation had laid some remarkably sturdy foundations for how the night should go and shown that the future of Merseyside based death metal is in safe hands.

Scouse slam heavyweight’s Colpocleisis were up next and for those who were already familiar with the quartet’s usual stage antics and inappropriate Sense of humour, it was time to laugh and watch the reactions of others who did not know what to expect. The sheer heaviness of the band was delivered on the usual, brutal fashion – plenty of guttural  growling, low-end heavy riffs and powerful drums, but the addition of a bassist, something the band did not have when I caught them live last simply sealed it. The massive wall of noise hit like a freight train and the switches from furious death metal riffing to crushing slam hammerings ensured tracks like “Back, Crack and Spack”, “ Slovakian Traffic Cone” and the band’s tribute to the late Barry Chuckle; “Brokeback Pounding” were received with laughter and headbanging.

By this point, the majority of those in attendance were a sweaty mess and the discomfort which this moist state brought was only going to be exponentially increased. Basement Torture Killings are a band I have wanted to catch live for quite some time, but circumstances had never permitted this want until now. In a packed room with very little space, what was the worst thing which could happen with four goregrind slinging serial killers?

Answer: a dismembered teddy bear, sausages/intestines being thrown about and a plum/heart flying at speed into an unsuspecting crowd.

BTK certainly meant business and my initial thoughts of ‘Fucking Hell!’ persisted throughout the set. The blistering paced goregrind-death metal hybrid was a relentless beast. Piercing riffs, dual vocal growl and screams, a sinister and unsettling stage presence, it all combined to create one of the most intense live experiences I have had. There were some small technical flaws in the set, but these were easy to overlook, the teddy bear dismemberment may have played some part in this but for all the visual elements in BTK’s performance, the raw and uncompromising musical delivery was what cemented them as the ‘bar setters’ for the night. Kudos also given for the grindcore cover of “Knives” by Therapy?, that was an unexpected treat.

Foetal Juice followed and this would be my first time seeing them live since their lineup changes. The ‘newer, younger and sexier’ vocalist worked the crowd like puppets on strings. Light hearted jabs due to M62 based rivalries, taking the show to the audience, whipping up a frenzy of bodies and delivering a solid set, Foetal Juice seemed to ‘draw the short straw’ with regards to having to follow BTK, but the more light-hearted and fun aspects of the band’s songs, coupled with the fact Foetal Juice are a formidable entity meant that they could unleash classics like “Noneckahedron”, “Nun so vile” and “Grave Denied” with ease, not seeming bothered by the ‘bar’ set for them.

The North-Eastern USA technical death metal juggernaut Cognitive followed, and with September 1st being their vocalist’s birthday, the present in the form of an eager crowd and a venue which made you sweat so much, you felt like you were carrying your own person on your back was the perfect gift. The crowd in attendance  were very receptive and as the formidable five piece delivered their crushing technical onslaught, there was plenty of headbanging. Virtuoso guitar leads, pummelling bass and logic defying, effortlessly executed gravity blasting drums provided the backdrop for a fearsome vocal assault and you could very well compare this onslaught of controlled musical chaos to bands like Origin; musicians who are highly competent in their composition and execution of intricate and astonishing musical feats.

As the end of the night drew closer, it was time for Neuroma to grace Liverpool one last time. With many in the crowd having followed the brutal death metal five piece over the years, and some of the bands performing having shared the stage with them at various points in time, it was time to bring a close to one chapter in the history of UK death metal.

After being asked If I was there to actually review the evening or if my notebook was simply filled with drawings of dicks, the band kicked things off.

From the start, it was clear that no prisoners were being taken, no punches were being pulled and all the stops were being brought. The relentless assault of riffs and blasting drums backing up the intense growls hit hard from the start and despite the band taking an extended hiatus, it was like they never stopped performing together. The crowd loved it, stirring themselves into a frenzy of activity and the brutal sounds kept coming: “Killed To Bits” with its borderline grind moments and pummelling groove based assault, “Gash In The Attic” with its blitzkrieg like pace and stinging delivery, early material “Dingoes Ate My Baby” was well received and delivered with a heavier feel. The performance was a reminder of why Neuroma are held with regard in the UK death metal community, a reminder of why they opened Deathfest 2009, a reminder of why they were chosen to support Morbid Angel. The performance was a reminder of when Liverpool had a thriving live scene and plenty of venues. It was a trip down memory lane for many in attendance and despite some tracks being lost to the echoes of time, tracks like “Supreme Foetal Torment” and closing number, “Columbine Harvester” served their purpose by hitting without mercy, once again highlighting the proficiency of the technical and brutal death metal machine.

In all, as the evening came to a close, there was a bittersweet feeling: several legacies ended tonight and once more, the stinging feel of yet another music venue being lost set in. The implications will be felt both short and long term, but this familiar scenario is nothing new and a discussion for a different day. Neuroma said their farewell to Liverpool in tremendous fashion and Maguires shut their doors one last time for the Liverpool music scene. Pizza, crowded and sweaty back rooms and an infamous five piece who were not afraid to cause chaos whenever they played, such an odd but right combination!

(apologies for lack of pictures, but venue was terrible for photography unless you had decent kit!)

Review Fraggle