When it comes to black metal based out of North America, there has been a dramatic increase in both bands putting forth the effort, as well as managing to capture the spirit once forged in the permafrost. Hercyn is another entry into the USBM world, hailing from the frostbitten streets of Jersey City, New Jersey. The four-piece act, initially formed by guitarist Michael Diciancia and guitarist/vocalist Ernest Wariorko in 2011, eventually completed its line-up in 2013 with the acquisition of drummer Michael Toscarelli, as well as established bassist Tony Stanziano (ex-Annunaki, ex-Grind Bastard, etc.) following the original duo's 2013 demo Magda, a one track offering that clocked in at just under twenty-four minutes. An acoustic version arrived in 2014, as well as the All This Suffering is Not Enough split with Thera Roya. For 2015, the completed cast of musicians bring forward their debut full-length effort, Dust and Ages. But does it provide the necessary chill in the air, or is this a far less impressive outing this time around?

While Magda was composed of a single extensive track, Dust and Ages is broken down into four, though one happens to have five parts. Of course that, and one other, go well beyond the ten minute mark, while the other half are your traditional shorter songs. Thankfully, all of them benefit from the cold atmosphere that was captured. The guitars have a decent sharpness, while the humming bass chords add a subtle blunt edge that is most beneficial during the more emotional/depressive passages. The raspy vocals are also a bit toned down, aiding in the varying layers of permafrost thickness across the release, as the drums present a good deal of variety in the patters, all captured with a slight echo that works wonders despite the tone being presented.

First up is "Dust", which ushers in a hint of post-black metal with the opening chords that establish a less frostbitten world where streams still flow against the snowy blankets surrounding them. The deeper clean vocals compliment the lower bass presence and infectious semi-tribal drum patterns, slowly incorporating more of a folk presence as it takes its time to build up "Of Ruin", a mid-paced mixture of epic Norse overtones and melancholic remorse. Even the vocals find some additional echo effects on them, playing up that grand sensation nicely above the various hooks, such as during the chorus, as well as approaching nine minutes in when the music seems to reflect the heightened level of battle for a brief period before finally ushering in more of the depressive riffs to wrap things up.

Meanwhile there's the following "Storm Before the Flood", an epic display of atmospheric black metal imagery. The stormy landscape is established early on thanks to the hooks that dive head first into the folk metal world, blurring the lines between the two quite well outside the steady drum presence that helps keep the pace going when the guitars are subjected to simpler, held notes, such as approaching two minutes in, but even then the misery still stands on its own. There's even a brief passage about seven minutes in where the pace slows down for the sake of more natural overtones similar to what "Dust" established, but with more of a subtle aquatic touch as the slow flowing river pulls you along with its dense current, shaking up as the storm once more crashes wildly and suddenly. It all concludes once more with "Ages", a dark, emotional piece akin to the world it all started with.

Dust and Ages is a surprising little nugget lost in the overlooked frostbitten lands known as New Jersey, where the snow caps seem to continue growing every so often. Indeed, Hercyn is a band that will immediately trick you into believing they originate from locations like Norway or Scandinavia, as the music performed sounds ripe with the cold harsh lands the black metal style initially started in. Dust and Ages may only be four songs long, but each track stands as its own entity, flowing smoothly from start to finish as it blurs the lines between traditional black metal, its atmospheric and post- counterparts, as well as folk metal, a style one would not expect from this most urban of places, let alone executed so well. There's an obvious love for this breed of metal on display throughout Dust and Ages, and one spin through will immediately find you wanting more from these obviously capable hands.

Review originally posted at Apoch's Metal Review.