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Arsenic Unbirthday - Ravens and Writing Desks

Arsenic Unbirthday - CD Review
Ravens and Writing Desks

Ravens and Writing Desks



CD Info
6 Tracks
English Lyrics

In the category of unusual band names, Arsenic Unbirthday, has to be one of the few standouts. Billing themselves as a poisonous alternative rock band, and from Cagliari, Italy, they are releasing their first EP called Ravens and Writing Desks. With interesting lyrics, a very nicely controlled voice, and lots of synthesized sound, this album is unique to say the least. The overall tone of the album is dark and fits the alternative genre of music. Part of one song reminded me a little of a mellow Linkin Park song.

The formation of Arsenic Unbirthday is a bit murky as far as the actual year. The band started with the collaboration of guitarist/keyboardist Nick Farlight and vocalist Mary Red Mallow and has morphed through multiple changes until reaching the present group of members. In addition to Mary and Nick, the band includes Emmanuel on Bass and Alex Stowe on drums. The release of this EP represents the band’s work with Epitronic and Wormhole Death for its release. Previous to Ravens and Writing Desks, the band has worked with various well-known artists throughout the world and recorded a promo in the famous Death Island Studios in Denmark.

The opening song, “My Enemy” starts ominously with what sounds like a background in a movie under part of the Three Pigs Fairytale. A girl’s scream informs us that the door has been blown in, which leads to the main part of the song. The keys play an ostinato before joined by the guitars and a light drum beat. There is some dubbing over in the song, especially in the vocals with some vocal harmony. The voice and guitar are close melodically throughout the song. Over a vocal chorus, Mary’s voice is very clear and floats effortlessly. The last part of the song is instrumental with the drum, bass, and synthesizer until it dies away.

Next on the album is “Unnecessary Pain,” which also starts out with lower synthesized low sounds with a haunting arpeggiated chord and then additional ethereal sounds. After that, there starts a synthesized ostinato that reminded me of one of Linkin Park’s songs. The vocals, both the main and harmony, are very clear and dark. Following this, the chorus is a true rock song with the light instruments under the vocals. Following key changes, the instruments provide the interlude, which are primarily keys, bass, and drums. The “Linkin Park-like” sound then continues to the end with the vocals.

“Imperfect” opens with a telephone ringing and after a whispered phrase; the drums, guitars, and keys come in with a short intro. The guitar and bass provide the lead-in for the vocals. During this song, Mary provides a glimpse of her vocal range, by holding out melodic phrases. In a change, against the vocals and keys, the drum provides an interesting counter beat. The song ends instrumentally with a light rock sound before a fading drum beat. An interesting lyric to this song is:

I am free to be imperfect

A nicely played melody on the piano, under synthesized floating sounds, opens “Another Sin to Hide.” This then transitions to the piano ostinato and rock drum beat. This song reminds of a rock ballad. The overall effect is very soft. Then the instruments and voice become very strong for the chorus before fading back to the ballad-like sound, and then returning with the strong rock sound. The vocals are very strong and clear between the two styles.

“Leaves Beneath” opens again with multiple synthesized parts including several different effects. When the vocals enter, we have the drum and bass playing with some short synthesized notes above. Part of the song reminds me of turning the dial back and forth to get the shrill, continuous sound above the voice. There is a nice key interlude over drums with arpeggiated chords before the shrill sound and vocals enter and continue to the end.

My favorite song on this EP would have to be “Sparklet.” This song displays a very ethereal, space-like sound in the opening. It has a pleasant, ambient sound and the use of the keys fits in well in this song. Mary’s vocal line provides a nice counter to the underlying beat, almost like there is a competition between the two. There is a forceful, instrumental punctuation at the end of each verse with the bass and drum. That punctuation also occurs at the end of the song with the exception that Mary sings the very last note. In addition, we hear some nice vocal harmony.

I must say that Arsenic Unbirthday first caught my attention with their name. This EP is interesting, unique, and pretty good for their first one. Listeners of Alternative Rock or Rock in general should include Ravens and Writing Desks in their library. Mary’s vocals are crisp and clear and her range is good. The instruments are well played and not overpowering throughout the EP. My only complaint is that there is an overabundance of synthesized sounds, which at times, detracted a little from the songs. I still look forward to what this band will produce in the future and so should listeners. For additional information on the band, please check out the following links:

Band's website
Band's Facebook page
Band's You Tube Channel