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No Living Witness – Cosmic Simulacra

No Living Witness
Cosmic Simulacra
by Alex Barnard at 17 August 2021, 3:44 AM

NO LIVING WITNESS is a Blackened Melodic Death Metal duo from Tumwater, WA. “Cosmic Simulacra” is the group’s third album, released independently on July 2, 2021.

NO LIVING WITNESS’s history is fairly odd. After independently releasing one full-length album in 2008 and an EP in 2010, the group disappeared for nearly a decade before re-emerging as a two-piece with mastermind Sam Haglund overseeing compositional duties. Thus, although this is only the band’s third album, the group has technically existed for a long time.

Regardless of the band’s strange background, “Cosmic Simulacra,” shows NO LIVING WITNESS in fine form. Haglund’s guitar playing is melodic, dark and punishing, combining influences from Steve Vai, KRALLICE and MORBID ANGEL, and Josh Young’s voice is stellar, effortlessly switching between Black Metal screeches, Death Metal gutturals and clean, beautiful singing. This album is truly a symphony of darkness.

One of the main highlights of “Cosmic Simulacra” is the way it seamlessly transitions between songs. I’ve always loved albums that do this, but I find that, outside of the Progressive Metal world, it’s not something one really hears on Metal albums. In this way, “Cosmic Simulacra” feels like a larger composition than just a collection of songs, a testament to the brilliance of Haglund.

Other highlights from this album include “Discarded Ember from the Universal Flame,” which opens the album with resplendent guitar chords and sonorous keyboards before launching us headfirst into ambient, reverb-laden brutality. “Dimensions of Diviner’s Sage” follows, displaying Haglund’s soloing prowess beautifully and emphasizing Young’s brutal vocal delivery. “Individual Sovereignty” is perhaps the heaviest track on the record, with its chunky and percussive guitar riffs and haunting keyboards. Finally, “Sailing on a Cardboard Sea” features an epic chord progression towards the middle of the track that compliments Haglund’s other-worldly guitar layers.

Overall, “Cosmic Simulacra” shows a version of NO LIVING WITNESS that has developed and refined its musical voice like a fine wine. Perhaps in 2008, the group wasn’t mature enough to make something so grand, but that is clearly not the case here. My one suggestion to Haglund: since it sounded to me like you were using samples, find a drummer to record with. Samples can be great in a pinch, but they suck some of the life out of a performance as incredible as “Cosmic Simulacra.

Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 6
Production: 8
Songwriting: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Discarded Ember from the Universal Flame
2. Dimensions of Diviner's Sage
3. Dark Moon
4. Sailing on a Cardboard Sea
5. Words Once Written
6. Individual Sovereignty
7. Terra Nova
Sam Haglund – Music/Recording/Mixing
Josh Young – Vocals/Lyrics
Record Label: Independent


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Edited 03 October 2022

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