Roadrunner seems to like to try and get itself in trouble with its core fan base every once in a while. A label known primarily for signing metal and even for trying to stay on the pulse of music to get the "next big thing in metal," signing radio-friendly bands? Don't stop reading yet though--just because one of Roadrunner's biggest mainstream acts is Nickelback doesn't mean you should write off their newest radio-friendly signing, Texas's 5-piece Faktion.
The band wastes no time showing that pop-friendly or not, they've got some muscle, kicking the CD off with the upbeat rocker "Forgive Me." A meaty detuned riff, melodic fill on the second guitar, and then we're off into our first sampling of vocalist Ryan Gibbs' singing. From the slightly nasal vocals, it's almost too easy to lump them in with virtually every pop/punk band of the last decade; fortunately, there's enough real power and variation in his voice to keep it from grating on my nerves or sounding generic. The track does have a few of the requisite emocore screams, although they're mostly back in the mix and also feel more impassioned than a generic, we-had-to-do-this-to-fit-in thing.
The following track, "Control," shows their poppier side; although still a pretty good rocker, this song is so full of hooks in the guitar and vocal melodies that it's impossible not to get drawn into it. It also strikes me as the type of song that would have teenage girls crowding the stage at a concert, hoping to have the vocalist reach down and touch their hand. But hey, who am I to complain if they can write a catchy tune that still feels like they're doing something special instead of just rehashing things?
"Control" is actually more indicative of the feel of the songs on the CD, midtempo rockers with a mix of clean and distorted guitar parts and laden with hooks galore. On the other hand, "Forgive Me" isn't just a fluke; there are plenty of other faster, harder songs like the first single "Take It All Away," "Maybe," and "Answers." The disc has vocal harmonies aplenty, with the liner notes listing every member as performing vocal duties in one way or another. Lyrically, a lot of the songs deal with relationships in one way or another, whether it's the break up and move on of "Letting You Go" or the missing a loved one of "6 O'Clock." They're all well-written, if maybe not very deep.
The more I heard about this band before snagging the disc, especially based on who I was hearing it from, the more I expected to dislike it. But truth be told, this is a disc full of well-written, catchy modern rock songs. They do mostly all sound the same, but that's pretty much par for the course anyway and why mess with a good thing? This is an incredibly strong debut, definitely worthy of all the buzz it got prior to release--here's hoping they stay on top of their game instead of following labelmates Nickelback and steering more towards the pop side of things. Either way, you can deal with that when they release a follow-up; for now, this is a disc that should be in your collection.