France's FT-17 really have a lot of promise. I guess we could call them war metal, but they don't really seem to stick to one basic thing. They're actually considered “melodic black metal” by the scribes over at Metal Archives, which I suppose sticks well enough, as we're definitely hearing colorful piano pieces as well heavily melodic riffs. The whole performance does feel very classical in a sense, which fits the source material of a school teacher who was drafted to serve as part of the military during the first World War. The record (English translated: Marcellin Goes To War) reads like his diary and is probably quite passionate, but I can't get over that part of the language barrier. As you might expect, the lyrics are all in the band's native so you would need some education in that department to understand them properly. Though I'd simply have it no other way. I feel that bands should be able to perform in their native and respect their mother tongue. Let us not lose that along the way. I feel that it is worth mentioning that FT-17 is made up of current members of depressive black metal outfit Ad Extirpenda, yet I much prefer this approach to that of the other band. What I really like about this record is that the disc sounds just as grim as you might expect it as Misein's vocals are just as raspy and full of venom as we'd imagine. Yet the duet of piano (yes, not a keyboard – they have a real piano player here by the name of Khorto) and guitar (performed by Hrothulf) truly work to provide a rather Gothic, or at least gloomy overtone that only comes up in the oddly rocking solo sections. Despite the record being rather depressing, these incredibly powerful solo sections feature nothing but some of the best noodling I've heard, even though their very presence is somewhat astounding for such a disc. But I'm certainly not going to knock a good solo – I never have.
The record is spaced with a few spoken word moments in which the diary is read. These add to the story, but won't do much for you if the language is in the way. Once again, that isn't a reason for you to not pick up this album and I'm quite surprised to see that no one else is promoting what I found to be quite an appealing piece of work. The disc is a bit raw, but it's the kind of raw we want. The piano pieces are well mixed, and don't feel forced by any means. I do think that listeners might be taken aback a bit by the use of female vocals in the album's closer, but it is 2016 and people need to start opening their minds a little more to unexpected approaches in their music. She certainly does a good job mixing with the band's style, but let us hope that FT-17 doesn't become more of a female-fronted symphonic metal act than the wonderful mix of dreary melodic black metal and classical piano that we have here. In any case, if you are looking for something different and perhaps with a bit more class and intelligence than you'll find in the devil worshiping antics of other black metal bands, I believe that you'll find something here in FT-17.
(11 Tracks, 43:00)