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Mark Holcomb and Misha Mansoor on returning to Haunted Shores for a pissed-off djent-thrash record

Haunted Shores
(Image credit: Ekaterina Gorbacheva)

While the punishing, progressive djent-thrash of Haunted Shores’ Void (3Dot Recordings) marks the first new music from the instrumental duo since 2015, guitarists Mark Holcomb and Misha Mansoor haven’t been passively resting their wrists this whole time – of course, both members also shred heavy with beloved D.C. prog metal unit Periphery. 

Though it seemed as if they’d ghosted on Haunted Shores, the pair were quietly hanging onto some especially harrowing riffs before rematerializing with this latest full-length.  

“We’re not one of those bands that just sits on our hands for years and then decides to write over a week; we always stockpile [riffs],” Holcomb says. “The fact that [Haunted Shores] has been dormant for six or seven years sucks, [but] it’s the nature of the beast with how demanding Periphery can be.”

That said, downtime arose for the guitarists in the spring of 2020 when the pandemic left Periphery’s tour plans in limbo. To combat the Covid blues, Holcomb dug into a strict work schedule at his Austin home, loading up on coffee and riffing for hours.

Between the java coursing through his veins and the existential mindfuck of the pandemic, much of what came pouring out of Holcomb during Void’s pre-production period was palpably perturbed.

“It’s a very pissed-off, dark, pessimistic record,” Holcomb confirms. “It sounds like a panic attack, and that word, Void, has always carried that energy for me.”

For proof, take the quixotic, Escher staircase-spiraling of OnlyFangs, which also modded a drop-C tuning in an ominously inkier direction by further dropping the fourth string to E minor.

Mansoor also polished Holcomb’s piece with its achingly melancholic chorus trill, the pair’s longtime, ego-less relationship fostering those kinds of gut-checks.

“If Mark comes to me with really sick riffs – which he does – but if they don’t necessarily fit the song, I can say that and no-one gets hurt,” Mansoor says of the swap, adding, “Arrangements are so sacred to me; everything has to flow.”

Compared to Periphery, both guitarists allude to the overall freeing aspect of not having to adapt Void’s wildest, knuckle-busting moments live, instead embracing the unfiltered zaniness they pulled out of the abyss.

Holcomb puts it best: “[Haunted Shores is] just me and Misha in a room passing a guitar back and forth and seeing what makes us laugh – like, ‘Holy shit, that’s ridiculous; let’s go with it’ – and then signing off. That’s it.”

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Gregory Adams is a Vancouver-based arts reporter. From metal legends to emerging pop icons to the best of the basement circuit, he’s interviewed musicians across countless genres for nearly two decades, most recently with Guitar World, Bass Player, Revolver, and more – as well as through his independent newsletter, Gut Feeling (opens in new tab). This all still blows his mind. He’s a guitar player, generally bouncing hardcore riffs off his ’52 Tele reissue and a dinged-up SG.