By Gareth Watkins
CALGARY — It was shocking to learn the title of Leave The Living’s album after listening to close to 30 minutes of pummelling, groove-laden metal: Pacifist. Not because heavy music can’t embrace progressive politics (it can and it often does) but because what came across on record was anything but peaceful. It was metallic hardcore, influenced by Pantera and the more muscular metalcore acts (there are instrumentals, but no clean singing), with riffs that can turn on a dime and drum-work that at times seems to glitch like Aphex Twin and Squarepusher, seemingly just to never let the listening become comfortable.
In reality, the members of Leave the Living are much more easygoing than they are on record. Formed in 2010 in Red Deer, Alberta when lead singer Justin Shadows heard from a fellow employee at headgear retailer Lids that her boyfriend played music, supplemented by finding an additional musician in Kijiji, they joke amongst themselves and have “unpublishable” stories of drunken nights out and groupies.
“We went out to the Loud As Hell festival in Drumheller and I ended up fairly intoxicated, just wandering around in shorts with stickers on my nipples. It turns out that wandering around with stickers on your nipples is the best way to attract drunk metalhead girls,” says Shadows, laughing. He is joined by bandmates Ben Bushido and Jose Dyck on guitar, Steven McGillivray on bass and Sean Higgins on drums. All five have been with the band since its inception.
Not taking themselves too seriously doesn’t mean they aren’t taking the project itself seriously: the quintet is actively shaping its sound and lyrical approach. In a somewhat funny turn given the aforementioned story, since being told that he was no longer allowed to write songs about women, Shadows has infused the lyrics with a more political bent.
“I’m more into the concept of a resource-based economy, where there’s enough for everybody if we don’t give so much to a small percentage—socialist I’d suppose you’d say,” says Shadows. Indeed, Pacifist includes songs like “Manifesto” and “Poison Pen.”
Leave the Living have more modest ambitions than crushing capitalism; rather, they’ like to see this debut record act as a “springboard to a label deal and being able to do this professionally.”
Instead of wanting to become as bloated and unintentionally comedic as Metallica (see Some Kind of Monster for evidence) they cite Australian thrash-grind-punk weirdos King Parrot as a business model. Like the aforementioned goofy band, Leave the Living is equal parts ridiculous, heavy and hardworking.
‘Professionally’ doesn’t mean a two-storey tour bus and a better standard of groupie, just being “able to make a living while out on the road, even if it means working a regular job while out on the road,” clarifies Shadows. He concludes, “That’s the payoff from the whole thing, just being able to get out onstage every night.”
Leave the Living will perform on April 24th at Dickens in Calgary with Without Mercy, False Flag and Blackest Sin.AB, Alberta, Dickens, Leave the Living, Pacifist