Black metal can be both the ugliest and most beautiful kind of metal. I’ve never bought into the glowering demeanors and spiky wristbands; the more armor one wears, the more vulnerable one feels. This frailty has yielded some of the most gorgeous guitars I’ve ever heard. Strip away the distortion, and you hear guys sitting alone in their bedrooms, plucking out minor chords.

Life’s Death Code

On The Smile of the Sad Ones (Temple of Darkness, 2007) Spain’s Foscor bleed scarlet guitars. Guitarwise in black metal, only Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord have affected me more. Foscor are hardly so esoteric; they mostly use minor chords, but from them they wring tears and blood.

“Life’s Death Code” has been a frequent soundtrack for me, a reminder there is something beyond 9 to 5, M to F, dollars to ashes. I love it when black metallers’ hands form jazzy shapes; see the chords that skate up and down at 3:06. Sadness swoons at 4:09 that even blastbeats can’t hide. At 2:22, “Gebre” reaches upwards, only to hit heaven’s glass floor. Licking wounds begins at 4:36. This record is mostly in Catalan, but that’s only one of the languages it speaks.

The Smile of The Sad Ones is available in Germany at Ván, in Australia at Asphyxiate, in the UK at Code7, and in the US at Graveless Slumber and The End.