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1960s to 70s

Liverpool’s heavy rock and metal scenes have tended to remain largely ‘hidden’ within existing accounts of the city’s music heritage. Indeed, in his account of the history of the city’s music, journalist Paul Du Noyer once went as far as claiming that “Liverpool has never produced a heavy metal band of any consequence.


Liverpool and the Merseyside region have housed hard rock and metal scenes since the 1960s and have been a breeding ground for several influential acts.


Club nights and gigs during the post-Merseybeat years of the world-famous Cavern Club during the late 1960s and early 1970s were partly responsible for generating early interest in heavy rock music.


Early incarnations of Thin Lizzy, Budgie and Judas Priest graced the Cavern stage during the early 1970s, as did homegrown acts such as Strife, a heavy rock band managed by the venue.


A long-lost Liverpool venue was also central to nurturing the nascent heavy rock scene within the city during the early-to-mid 1970s.


The Liverpool Boxing Stadium (or Liverpool Stadium as it was known) hosted gigs by a plethora of heavy metal pioneers including Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and Deep Purple. Emerging local acts in this period, such as Nutz, also played at the Stadium.


Yet, the Stadium was not just important for the bands that took to its stage, but for the way it galvanized a local heavy rock scene.


Contributors to the Liverpool Stadium Rock Years blog recall how ‘hanging out’ in the queues before gigs constituted a vital means of meeting like-minded people.


Emerging local heavy rock bands were also regular acts to feature within a circuit of popular city centre pub venues. Bands like Nutz, Marseille and Export developed a reputation partly through playing pubs like the Sportsman, the Star and Garter, and the Moonstone, which were in the St Johns Precinct.

1980s to 90s

The 1980s saw several Merseyside venues rise to prominence as heavy rock and metal grew in popularity on a national and international level.

The Liverpool Empire had hosted big name acts such as Queen, Led Zeppelin and Rainbow throughout the 1970s and as the 1980s dawned the theatre continued to stage rock gigs.


However, it is arguably another theatre that became Liverpool’s pre-eminent venue for heavy rock and metal in this era. The Liverpool Royal Court, a previously popular venue for top theatre productions and pantomime, shifted its booking policy to accommodate rock and pop acts from 1980 onwards. 


A veritable who’s who of heavy rock and metal giants took to the Royal Court stage during the 1980s. This included Whitesnake (in 1981 and 1984); Bon Jovi (1986); Thin Lizzy (1983); Ozzy Osbourne (1981 and 82) and Dio (1983).


While hosting some of the most commercially successful acts of the era, the Royal Court also booked some of the more cutting edge and extreme metal acts of the time.


For instance, they hosted Testament and Anthrax in 1987 during the thrash metal boom, influential black metal act Emperor in 1992, and rap metal crossover act Faith No More in 1988.


Sarah O’Hara’s research into the venue also reveals how the Royal Court’s crypt, which was entitled ‘The World Downstairs,’ was used for many heavy rock, metal, and punk gigs during the 1990s.


Footage of British death metal pioneers, Cancer, performing at the venue on YouTube is testimony to its willingness to showcase extreme metal.


Another small club venue in Liverpool city centre helped to nurture a national extreme metal scene during this period. Planet X, which was situated at various locations including Temple Street and then Hanover Street was principally a Goth club, yet it also played host to a multitude of early UK hardcore punk, grindcore, and death metal bands.


This was largely thanks to the policies of the club owner Doreen Allen who was open to allowing other promoters to host a night at the venue.  


Between 1987 and 1990 influential Merseyside-based grindcore and death metal pioneers, Carcass, became something of a ‘house band’ at Planet X, playing at the venue on fourteen separate occasions.


Likewise, Anathema, a band that emerged from Merseyside to international acclaim as initially a death-doom metal band (and then later a more ‘progressive’ act), were given a start at Planet X.


By the early 1990s, the Moonstone (which had been renamed Milos) and Planet X had gone. However, a new venue on Wood Street entitled Sloanes partly served to offset these losses.


Sloanes, which was soon renamed the Krazyhouse, hosted metal and heavy rock gigs throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s.


Acts that performed at the venue included Badlands, Love/Hate, Paradise Lost, Great White, Korn, Fear Factory, Placebo, Bush, Cathedral, Anathema and Biohazard.


Krazyhouse became established as a major night club in the North-West and expanded its remit to include not just a rock audience, but an ‘indie’/alternative crowd, as well as catering for the rising student population in Liverpool.

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 2000s to present

For most of the period between the early 1970s up until the early 2000s, larger venues able to accommodate internationally acclaimed rock acts existed alongside small venues which were hospitable to niche acts and upcoming bands (both local and national).

However, from the early years of the new millennium onwards, the live circuit for heavy rock and metal gigs has been increasingly subject to more-or-less consistent change.

While the live music sector within the Liverpool city region overall has boomed, the fortunes of ‘rock-friendly’ venues have been mixed.

The Royal Court stopped hosting gigs from the mid-2000s and the Krazyhouse (now renamed Electrik Warehouse) is at present no longer a regular stop for major tours.

City centre venues that were hospitable to heavy rock and metal during the 2000s and early part of the 2010s, notably the Lomax, Hannah’s bar, Bumper, and the Magnet have all closed.

Yet, in the same period smaller venues such as EBGBS, Zanzibar, Maguires Pizza Bar/Outpost and the Pilgrim have emerged as important sites for new rock and metal music.

These exist alongside larger venues that have accommodated rock and metal touring acts at various points, including the Mountford Hall, the O2 Academy, the Arts Club, the Olympia and occasionally the M&S Bank Arena.

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