The Latin American gothic music scene never fails to give us some sparkling musicians. From San José, Costa Rica, Ariel Maniki And The Black Halos are a seasoned darkwave band with several albums under their belts and currently signed to Deepland Records.
August brought us the release of the latest album, Black Light. This is where you are going to get your value for your money. No less than fifteen tracks and there are no remixes from this trio made up of Ariel Maniki (vocals, guitar, synths, bass, programming), Janice Black (synths/keyboards) and Eva Red (bass and vocals).
The first guitar lines are reminicent of London After Midnight, on the title track, “Black Light“. There is something just spine tingling about the progression which climbs and swells. “Strangers” is a wonder piece as it feels uplifting and dark at the same time. The guitar riffs will become highly recognisable once you have heard them.
The bassline harkens back to The Cure’s Faith period in the song “Emptiness“. The synth swirls and entwines you. “Sadness” is a bitter-sweet ode to losing a loved one to a depressive melancholy, waiting with them to come back to you. It’s is slower and more delicate yet the chorus soars through the pain.
All the spookiness is with “Oh Milena!“. Is she alive or dead or, perhaps, even the undead?! Cue the dead sexy saxophone from James Perry, which is an interesting juxtaposition to the Hammond organ sounding synth, so prominent in Hammer Horror movies.
Again the spook factor is present in “Mirror“, with creepy laughs and a slightly more manic feel with Caro Campos, not for the last time, joining Maniki on vocal duties. “We Only Have Tonight” is a touching, gothic tribute to a forever love. It is sweet and seductive with the guitars, both acoustic and electric aplenty.
The beginning of “Absence” is misleading. It seems all so quiet but will soon reveal the surging synths that roll into the vocals. Campos‘ voice is angelic as it accents the interludes. Maniki has been to the Robert Smith school of creepy whispers in a song where something is going to drive you insane with the wait. So in a way the torture is “Pain“.
“The Pale Horseman” sounds exactly like modern, gothic, western should. That iconic guitar made popular by Ennio Morricone in the spaghetti westerns is there but all prettied with synths and a helping of dark sarsaparilla, if you please bartender. It’s mighty dusty. The guitar work is beautiful in “Sleep” and with the vocals, it is a reminder of The Wake in the early 90s. It really is a lovely throw back and the song is truly a succulent morsel.
Flowers have meanings. “Lilies And Carnations” can be flowers that mean a deeply desired love and they can also represent death of a perfect love and terrible grief. The latter is the premise of this track, the fleeting time lovers have together, which is a complete difference from the more dirge like “Shelter“. Maybe he’s the dark shaman that lives in the woods destined to never leave but in any case this is a far more gritty piece.
Coming to the end, the last two tracks are “Afterthought” and “Cocoon“, with the former being a meandering tribute to the power of being so caught up in love and all else fades away. “Cocoon” is a trippy little piece that plinks away like a child’s music box with ghostly intent.
From the first time I heard Ariel Maniki’s voice, it reminded me of another, then it hit me. The ever youthful Sven Friedrich of Dreadful Shadows/Zeraphine has a very wonderful rich tone and Maniki is scarily and delightfully similar. The album is a velvet tapestry of lush tracks that contain a nice balance of electronic along side more traditional instruments. Full of gothic romance and horror, which for most of us is the same thing, it paints a delicate fog drenched background for the children of the night to fall in love with. Definitely do check this out if your little dark heart beats within Black Light.