Considering the comparative acclaim that usually gets churned out by Overdrive Magazine, I can see how my rating here might be seen as pretty low, but bear with me here; Melbourne’s Krestfallen is actually one of the more interesting ambient black metal projects I’ve heard in a while. Mixing some of the more nature-driven elements of black metal with the more mellow and uplifting elements of ambient and synth music, Krestfallen has crafted a release that is truly reflective of its title and artwork, keenly invoking a sense of openness and adventure where most black metal would typically aim to do the opposite.

Repetitive, hypnotic and oddly soothing, the best parts of Krestfallen’s debut meld bubbly, staccato synth hits with the harsher, but suitably major key, sounds of black metal. Driven by new-age style keyboard-lines that are somewhat reminiscent of relaxation music, the synths dominate the mix while the rest of the band (well, it’s a one-man project, but you know what I mean) thunders away in the background. Each seemingly disparate part bleeds into each other slightly, but not so much as to create a noisy atmosphere so much as a blissful contrast pulling you in different directions depending on which aspect of the music you choose to focus on – with the result being almost akin to listening to two very different albums at the same time. It really fills out the mix nicely, potentially leaving something new to be discovered each time you delve into it, as well as rewarding the passive listener with easy, droning rhythms and a peaceful, easy-going vibe.

But, well, all that being said, it’s hard for me not to be a tad underwhelmed personally by Vol. 1: Wanderlust. The album boasts only a couple of those excellent synth-driven ambient black metal tracks – Wanderlust’s ‘II’ and ‘IV’ respectively – surrounded by a few pleasant but fairly nondescript ambient tracks, which collectively make up to more than half of the short runtime.

Wanderlust’s ‘I’ and ‘III’ meander along without really leaving much of an impression other than that they sound like something you might hear in an Elder Scrolls game, and although I did quite enjoy the ambient closer ‘Wanderlust V’ a fair bit more, I think I’d like it better on its own merits if it weren’t for the somewhat bitter fact that it’s preceded by one of the coolest ambient black metal tracks I’ve heard all year – and is also regrettably the longest track on the album. This variance in quality and style might not have been such an issue if the album were longer and with a little more variety to it, but running at just under half an hour, it ends before it has a chance to pick up again, and no matter how many times I listen it always leaves me a little lukewarm.

Even so, considering that this is only Vol. 1 and the fact that I’m sure it’s all uphill from here, I’ll cut it some slack. Its best tracks are some of the most intriguing black metal I’ve heard in a while, and it’s a notably unique take on a style of black metal that often seems to be running out of ideas. I’d highly recommend this album to any fan of the kind of minimalist, ambient-inspired experimentation churned out by some of the more anonymous, solitary and introspective black metal acts, such as Mesarthim, Darkspace, and even Burzum on occasion, and I’m very interested to see where this project goes in the future.