M. Shadows

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M. Shadows
Shadows performing with Avenged Sevenfold in 2017
Shadows performing with Avenged Sevenfold in 2017
Background information
Birth nameMatthew Charles Sanders
Born (1981-07-31) July 31, 1981 (age 42)
Fountain Valley, California, U.S.
  • Singer
  • songwriter
Years active1999–present
Member ofAvenged Sevenfold
Formerly ofSuccessful Failure
Valary DiBenedetto
(m. 2009)

Matthew Charles Sanders (born July 31, 1981), known by his stage name M. Shadows, is an American singer and songwriter. He is the lead vocalist and a founding member of heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold. In 2017, Shadows was voted third in the list of Top 25 Greatest Modern Frontmen by Ultimate Guitar.[1]

Early life[edit]

M. Shadows was born on July 31, 1981, in Fountain Valley, California, and raised in Huntington Beach, California.[2] He is of Irish and Italian descent. He was raised Roman Catholic. His sister is former WNBA player Amy Sanders, who is two years younger than him.[3] His interest in rock was from listening to bands like Guns N' Roses earlier in life after his father gave him his first cassette, and his interest in heavy metal music grew as he became older and began to play the guitar. He links his early musical experience with the piano as a major factor in developing his skills with the guitar and his voice. He attended Huntington Beach High School, where he played for a brief stint in a punk band named "Successful Failure".[4] Following this, Shadows formed Avenged Sevenfold in 1999 along with middle school friends Zacky Vengeance, The Rev, and Matt Wendt.[5]

Stage name[edit]

Shadows, like the other members of Avenged Sevenfold other than Brooks Wackerman, uses a stage name. In an interview, Shadows says that he chose his stage name because he thought of himself as "the darker character in the group". The 'M' is in place of his first name, Matthew, which he did not want to be in his stage name because of the way it sounded. He also added that he and the band took stage names because many other successful musicians that they were influenced by had them (e.g. Slash of Guns N' Roses, Munky of Korn and the members of Slipknot). Shadows also mentioned in another interview their reasoning behind choosing stage names also came from their intention to "piss people off".[6]

Vocal style[edit]

Shadows performing at the Nova Rock Festival in June 2014

Shadows possesses a baritone voice but is able to sing comfortably in the tenor range, hitting high C on a regular basis. His vocal range spans nearly four octaves, from D2,[7] and reaching up to A5[7] - Shadows' highest recorded note to date. His vocal style has evolved significantly over the years. On the band's first full-length record, Sounding the Seventh Trumpet, he featured harsh, metalcore-style growls with limited instances of clean vocals. The release of Waking the Fallen in 2003 demonstrated his progression towards melodic vocal lines, but still retained a strong screaming influence. However, the most significant change came with the release of the band's major label debut, City of Evil, in 2005, which featured minimal background screaming, stronger vocal melodies, and increased emphasis on harmonies and melodic hooks. Shadows turned to Ron Anderson, a vocal coach who had previously worked with Axl Rose and Chris Cornell.[8]

Shadows was specifically looking to add a more gritty, raspy tone to his voice and worked with Anderson for several months on this before City of Evil was recorded.[8] This change resulted in newly established vocal contributions from each band member during live performances, and remained prevalent on every record the band has released since 2005.

Rumors were spread that Shadows had lost his ability to scream due to throat surgery needed after Warped Tour 2003. However, producer Andrew Murdock put down these rumors by saying: "When I met the band after Sounding the Seventh Trumpet… Matt handed me the CD, and he said to me, 'This record's screaming. The record we want to make is going to be half-screaming and half-singing. I don't want to scream anymore… the record after that is going to be all singing.'"

During an interview with Stevie Rennie on October 28, 2014, Shadows mentioned he had intentionally changed his voice to become less raspy and distorted while touring in 2014. The change was due to longer live shows lasting from one and a half to two hours in support of Hail to the King. Shadows went on to say that "you better be taking care of yourself or you're gonna be cancelling shows" and "I wanted to hit notes over the rasps".[9]

Other projects[edit]

Shadows in August 2007

Shadows has made guest appearances on numerous albums by various artists. He is featured on Steel Panther's 2009 album Feel the Steel and sings a verse of "Turn out the Lights". He also produced The Confession's 2007 album, Requiem, which, according to an interview, M. Shadows was one of the first steps which led to Avenged Sevenfold self-producing their 2007 self-titled album.[10] He also sings in "The River" by Good Charlotte on the album Good Morning Revival along with fellow band member Synyster Gates with his guitar solo. The April 2013 release of Device's self-titled album featured Shadows vocals throughout track 9, "Haze". He also sang "Nothing to Say" in Slash's self-titled solo album, as well as "Go Alone" in Hell or Highwater's debut album. He was also featured on Fozzy's album Sin and Bones singing alongside Chris Jericho in the song "Sandpaper".

Shadows has also been longtime friends with David Vonderhaar of Treyarch, the developers of the Call of Duty: Black Ops video game series, for which Avenged Sevenfold have created four original songs. In 2012, Shadows and Synyster Gates made a brief cameo in Call of Duty: Black Ops II in which they provided the voice over and motion capture of themselves. Also, in June 2013, Shadows competed in the sold out 128-team Call of Duty bracket at MLG Anaheim, placing in the Top 48. In July 2019, Shadows was added as a playable character in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's "Blackout" battle royale mode.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Shadows married Valary DiBenedetto on October 17, 2009. The couple have two sons, River who was born in 2012 and Cash, born in 2014. Shadows' bandmate Synyster Gates is married to DiBenedetto's twin sister Michelle DiBenedetto, making the two brothers-in-law.[12]

In June 2020, during the George Floyd protests, Shadows published an op-ed piece for Revolver announcing his support for the Black Lives Matter movement. In it, he urged both the rock and metal communities to "reach out and show the compassion that I know is in us all to help raise up our fellow humans". He was especially motivated to write the piece due to the lack of African Americans in the Avenged Sevenfold fanbase.[13]

His favorite artists include Guns N' Roses, Elton John, Pink Floyd, Bad Religion, Pennywise, NOFX,[14] At the Gates, Dream Theater, Helloween, Iron Maiden, Korn, Megadeth, Metallica, Pantera, Queensrÿche, System of a Down,[15] Mr. Bungle,[16] H2O,[17] Rancid,[18] Disembodied, and Knocked Loose.[19]

In March 2022, M. Shadows and Disturbed frontman David Draiman criticized the Florida Parental Rights in Education Act bill quoted, "As a parent of a 7 and 9 year old they have asked about sex and used the word 'gay' in derogatory fashion. Kids are aware at this age so I feel the quicker we explain and show empathy for all people the better… including in school. (I read the full bill.)".[20]


With Avenged Sevenfold[edit]

Guest appearances[edit]


  1. ^ "Friday Top: 25 Greatest Modern Frontmen". ultimate-guitar.com. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  2. ^ Loudwire (July 11, 2018), Avenged Sevenfold's M. Shadows - Wikipedia: Fact or Fiction?, archived from the original on December 21, 2021, retrieved July 11, 2018
  3. ^ "Avenged Sevenfold's Eternal Soldiers™ - M. Shadows". Archived from the original on April 25, 2015. Retrieved May 6, 2015.
  4. ^ "Here are all the bands that every member of Avenged Sevenfold were in before Avenged Sevenfold". Loudersound. April 24, 2023. Retrieved August 26, 2023.
  5. ^ "Avenged Sevenfold Are Auctioning Off An Early Bass Guitar Used On Their First Demo". Kerrang. September 10, 2019. Retrieved October 26, 2022. he original line up consisted of Zacky V, The Rev, M. Shadows and Matt Wendt. Matt played with us for a couple of years before deciding to head off to college.
  6. ^ "Avenged Sevenfold: Why We All Decided to Have Stage Names".
  7. ^ a b "M. Shadows: Vocal profile - Higher notes - Lower notes". The Range Planet. November 28, 2020. Archived from the original on September 30, 2021. Retrieved October 27, 2021.
  8. ^ a b "Avenged Sevenfold Feature Interview". Blistering. 2006. Archived from the original on May 29, 2012. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  9. ^ Steve Rennie (October 28, 2014). "M Shadows, Avenged Sevenfold Singer - Renman LIVE #098". Archived from the original on December 21, 2021. Retrieved March 28, 2018 – via YouTube.
  10. ^ "M. Shadows". Avenged Sevenfold Forever. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  11. ^ "M. Shadows Announced As Playable Character In Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 - Operation Apocalypse Z. - Avenged Sevenfold". avengedsevenfold.com.
  12. ^ "Avenged Sevenfold" – via PressReader.
  13. ^ Sanders, Matthew (June 3, 2020). "Avenged Sevenfold's M. Shadows: Why I stand with the 'Black Lives Matter' movement". Revolver. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  14. ^ "Avenged Sevenfold's M. Shadows: 10 Songs That Made Me". Revolver. April 2, 2018. Archived from the original on April 5, 2018. Retrieved February 19, 2023.
  15. ^ "Avenged Sevenfold's M. Shadows: My 10 Favorite Metal Albums". Rolling Stone. July 10, 2017. Archived from the original on April 5, 2018. Retrieved February 19, 2023.
  16. ^ "A7X's M. Shadows: How I Went From Hating to Loving Mr. Bungle's 'California'". Revolver. July 12, 2019. Archived from the original on July 14, 2019. Retrieved February 19, 2023.
  17. ^ @shadows_eth (February 7, 2022). "I got to sit down with one of my childhood idols a couple weeks ago and talk about web3, early hardcore days, dmt, social issues, family and everything in between. Disclaimer, I've had a @h2obandofficial tattoo since I was 14. Thanks @tobymorse" (Tweet). Archived from the original on February 7, 2022. Retrieved February 19, 2023 – via Twitter.
  18. ^ "'Sounding the Seventh Trumpet': Avenged Sevenfold Look Back on Early Days, First Album". Revolver. January 31, 2020. Archived from the original on February 22, 2020. Retrieved February 19, 2023.
  19. ^ @shadows_eth (February 13, 2023). "Right now its @knockedloose because one of my fav bands is Disembodied. This sounds like a modern version of that IMO" (Tweet). Archived from the original on February 19, 2023. Retrieved February 19, 2023 – via Twitter.
  20. ^ "David Draiman and M. Shadows Speak Out Against Florida's 'Don't Say Gay Bill'". Loudwire. March 12, 2022.

External links[edit]

Media related to M. Shadows at Wikimedia Commons