ARS ONIRICA is an Italian death/doom act founded in Rome in 2003 and, back then, it used to be a full lineup band. They released a demo in 2004, “Utopia: a Winternight’s Traveller,” but they disbanded after a while. Guitarist Alessandro Sforza (VEIL OF CONSPIRACY, INVERNOIR) turned it into a solo project and released a full length album in early 2019 called “I: Cold,” via Bad Mood Man Music/Solitude Production. The second album, “II: Lost,” came out on September 23rd, 2022, via Spanish label Ardua Music.
Deeply inspired and influenced by well-known bands, such as PARADISE LOST, KATATONIA, and ANATHEMA, especially in the production from their early years, ARS ONIRICA’s second release marks a step forward when compared to its predecessor: “II: Lost” sounds heavier, more complex, multilayered, and even more personal. Take, for instance, the opening tune, “Lost” – its soft and delicate vibe is reminiscent of ANATHEMA and all of those devastating feelings of loneliness the British band was able to convey on their works from the late ‘90s (I would say “Alternative 4” and “Judgement,” to be precise), but starting from the second song, “My Heart, Your Tomb,” a massive contribution from the influence of Finnish death-doom masters SWALLOW THE SUN is detectable, both in terms of atmosphere and in some more formal aspects as well, such as guitar-work, vocals, and songwriting in its purest essence. This song is about the topic of miscarriage from the future father’s perspective, a theme that is not that common in such a well-established subgenre where pain and loss get widely discussed and analyzed.
Referrals to nature as a soothing entity are present in the third tune, “Daydream,” which shows some atmospheric elements reminiscent of ALCEST’s early years, but perfectly balanced, as we take the track as a whole into consideration. Track number four is “Regret,” which in the beginning sounded like an unpublished track from SWALLOW THE SUN’s fifth album “Emerald Forest and the Black Bird,” because of its doom oriented structure and engaging straightforwardness. The referral to STS has to be taken as a point in favor of Alessandro’s ability to learn the lesson and make the best use of it; he is no Kotamäki clone, but rather someone who is, more than ever, ready to take up the baton as a full-fledged talented and experienced musician and vocalist.
Excellent acoustic guitar-work opens the 9-minute long track, “Forever and a Day,” whose gloomy and intense pace sets a new standard in an already great album – melancholic yet aggressive, its lyrics almost sound like a screenplay where the listeners could see themselves drowning in that bittersweet sense of sorrow. Clean vocals are top-notch and as for the musical arrangement, there is a part of me that still does not believe ARS ONIRICA is a one-man band. In addition, progressive vibes and a remarkable guitar solo do add complexity to this tune.
Second-to-last song “Together… Alone” is a hymn to hopelessness, where both music and words combine in a perfect match. There is a slight aftertaste of FORGOTTEN TOMB’s early releases in the intro and main riff, which make this tune quite interesting. Nearly – clean vocals do make a big contrast with deep growls and the overall structure is far from any cliché. Closing tune “On the Wall” has a strong funeral doom -vibe both in music and lyrics. Its gut-wrenching main topic is the outcome of a visit to a concentration camp and the suffocating sense of grief, helplessness, and inhumanity such a place still gives its visitors. As for the songwriting as a whole, it works as a perfect conclusion for “II: Lost.”
Overall, I can openly state that ARS ONIRICA has evolved a lot as a musical entity, and this album is a tangible proof that the band is more than ready to compete internationally and make an impact.
Written by Licia Mapelli
- My Heart… Your Tomb
- Forever and a Day
- Together… Alone
- On the Wall
Alessandro Sforza – all instruments, vocals, lyrics