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October 19, 2007

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Last year a band by the name of Cloak/Dagger released a 7” record. That record, Piñata, was easily one of the best slabs of wax I had heard in a long long time. The record was eventually re-released with their original demo following the band's singing to Jade Tree Records. As time elapsed my anticipation for new songs from the band dwindled, as it seemed they'd just never get around to recording. But then, out of nowhere, We Are was announced and I was back on the edge of my seat. The debut full-length is thirteen new songs of rock-influenced hardcore punk.

We Are opens with “Bended Knee” and immediately one will notice that Cloak/Dagger have refined their sound since the release of their debut 7”. The song still holds deep within a hardcore punk vibe, but the rock-n-roll influence has greatly increased. The guitar work of Colin Barth screams of Swami influence. “Sunburnt Mess” follows and, while less noticeable, continues down a similar path. The rhythm of the song is frantic, and yet so tight - bassist Aaron Barth and drummer Colin Kimble should be commended. Which brings us to the vocals of Jason Mazzola, who previously spent time in a little band called Count Me Out. His vocal style with Cloak/Dagger is less forceful and restrained, which makes sense given the style shift. Also it seems hardcore bands put the vocals at the forefront of the mix, while with Cloak/Dagger the music have been pushed slightly foreword.

“Runways” continues the rock-influenced punk adventure that is We Are. Quick listens to this song, and the rest of the album may reveal the music to be simply guitar-driven punk. But the closer you listen and more you pay attention, the more the variations in the guitar work become apparent. Cloak/Dagger continue to blaze through the album, the vast majority of the songs clocking in less than two minutes. “J.C. Pays the Bills” really demonstrates the rock influence, with a guitar solo section smack dab in the middle of the song. It really wouldn't be shocking to here some of these riffs on a Hot Snakes album.

As I listen to remainder of the songs of We Are, I think of all those idiots that claim that hardcore died many years ago. And while I can see how they may not take a liking to a lot of the modern bands with their metal influence, bands like Cloak/Dagger deliver a sound that might as well been recorded in 1983. Seriously, “Set the Alarm” is pretty much just a retelling of “Clocked In” to an unreleased Black Flag song.

Those that were impressed with the first offering from Cloak/Dagger should find the band's transition in sound intriguing and yet still appealing. Those that have been suffering from the dwindling number of Swami-influenced bands will take solace in We Are. Cloak/Dagger have delivered one of the more original sounding albums of the year. Pick it up, turn the stereo up, and soak up the riffs.