Red Deer metal band Leave the Living’s debut album features political themes.

Metalhead urges youth to vote

Take it from a metalhead: Young Albertans need to protect their own interests by voting in Tuesday’s provincial election. Justin Shadows, the bellowing vocalist of Red Deer groove metal band Leave the Living, is tired of seeing rising tuition fees, cuts to education, and other costs borne by the young.

Take it from a metalhead: Young Albertans need to protect their own interests by voting in Tuesday’s provincial election.

Justin Shadows, the bellowing vocalist of Red Deer groove metal band Leave the Living, is tired of seeing rising tuition fees, cuts to education, and other costs borne by the young.

Government leaders are sticking it to younger people because they can, said the 35-year-old father-of-three.

He noted politicians know those in their late teens and early 20s won’t get them into office because most don’t vote. The majority of seniors do ­— that’s why older Albertans get new perks at budget time, while young people end up paying more and more for things like university and college tuitions and now health care, he said.

According to Statistics Canada, only about 30 per cent of Albertans age 18 to 24 vote, compared to nearly 70 per cent of people age 65 to 74.

“I want people to make an informed choice,” and then cast a ballot, said Shadows (it is his legal last name).

Listeners who can make out the lyrics on Leave the Living’s new debut full-length album, Pacifist — despite Shadows’s low-register screaming — will find some pretty political themes.

The song Manifesto rails against “the one per cent,” who have a vastly disproportionate amount of wealth, compared to the rest of the population.

“I really believe there’s enough resources for everybody if we just stopped letting a few people hoard it all. …

“For some reason, we continue to let them rule the world,” said Shadows.

The title track skewers political complacency — people who spend their weekends drinking in front of the TV instead of seeing the big picture.

“I have always voted at every level of government, municipal provincial and national,” said the vocalist, who believes it’s the only way of trying to ensure his interests are taken into account.

Poison Pen blasts listeners about the importance of exercising free speech, how this right should never be taken for granted.

Shadows leans to the left politically, favouring solar power over “ripping oil out of the earth and fracking.” He’s also critical of Prime Minister Stephen Harper for selling institutions to foreign interests.

While many fans of heavy metal music lean in the opposite political direction, Shadows doesn’t care which party people support as long as they vote.

He wrote the lyrics on the self-produced indie release Pacifist, while the rest of the band — guitarists Ben Bushido and Josiah Dyck, bassist Steve McGillivray and drummer Sean Higgins — worked out the music on the tracks.

Leave the Living was formed in 2010, when Shadows, then a Bower Place mall store manager, found out a co-worker’s boyfriend was in a heavy metal group that needed a vocalist.

Primed on karaoke, he passed the audition with a growling voice that plumbs the lower registers. Shadows, now manager of The Soundhouse in downtown Red Deer, describes it as “the opposite of falsetto.”

The musicians then lined up guitarist Dyck through Kijiji — and Leave the Living was born.

After five years of playing together all across Alberta, the musicians, influenced by Pantera and Brazilian heavy metal band Sepultura, are still tight.

“Being in a band is like having four girlfriends you don’t get to sleep with. It’s a multi-faceted relationship,” said Shadows. “You spend so much time together, sometimes it’s like, man I’m tired of your face. …” But the quintet regularly gets re-energized through its hardcore music.

For Shadows, the pull of heavy metal has always been its raw, blunt truthfulness. “There’s honest emotion in it, and it’s presented in a very powerful way. It’s made to get your blood pumping.”

Leave the Living performs at the Farmageddon open-air metal festival near Ryley on June 13.

The new Pacifist album is also available through The Soundhouse,, or at

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