Battle Songs from the Top of the Mountain | Posted March 19, 2012 Staff Reviewer
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
If there is anything Canadian born Chris Greenwood, aka Christian music rap sensation “Manafest,” has come to realize in the past few decades, it’s that life is a fight--not in the physical sense, but rather, the spiritual.
At only 5 years old, his father took his own life, that being the catalyst for what became a teenage life filled with quiet fear and insecurity. After an injury robbed him of what looked like a potential future in the professional skateboarding world, Manafest would soon turn to music as his channel for therapy. Little did he know then that God would usher in his spiritual healing, as well as the healing of thousands of others, through those early days of songwriting.
Seven years, five albums, and 12 Covenant Awards later, Manafest has gone on to become one of the most noted rappers in the industry--and for good reason. While his innovative fusion of hip-hop-meets-rock is partially to blame, it’s his lyrical honestly about shortcomings and in-your-face message of truth that steal the show. His 2010 project, The Chase, earned him some much due recognition in the American CCM world, and ever since, he been riding a wave of continued global success. (“The Chase” has become a massive success in Japan.)
As much of a fairytale as this all seems, his victories haven’t come without a fair share of struggle. “Whether it’s family, personal, or professional, it’s been a fight,” he explains. “I’ve had
the willingness to bear pain to get through all this, and I’m winning now.”
This prize fighter-like mentality inspired his latest effort, 2012’s Fighter, focusing on the themes of fighting our way through life and finding our victory in Christ. Produced by acclaimed mainstream and Christian music producers Adam Messinger (Justin Bieber, Chris Brown, JoJo) and Seth Mosley (Newsboys, Me In Motion, Peter Furler) this progressive rock/rap journey of honest faith is unlike anything you’ve heard Manafest do before.
The albums kicks off with the title track “Fighter,” encouraging the listener to get back up after past defeats that have knocked them down. It’s one of the strongest songs of his concise career and has some major potential for crossover success. “Throw It Away” comes from an obviously personal place, it being a message to the listener that throwing life away isn’t worth it--how pain is fleeting, and life is meant to be lived through the good and the bad.
“Pushover,” written after a childhood of bullying, is Manafest’s cry to the misfits of our generation, telling them not to buy into the lies of who others say they are, but instead, to stand in their God-given identity. The gritty and lyrically candid “Human,” talks about the ugly side of human nature, and how we desperately need the grace of a Savior. The smoking track “Come Alive,” comes next, and it’s about not living as a victim of past choices, but rather, a warrior, moving beyond mistakes.
“Never Let You Go” becomes a trench song of sorts, encouraging those who are ready to give up to stay strong and listen to the voice of God who tells us to hang on. It’s a striking reminder that God is with us, even when we don’t feel like He is: “When you’re scared and you can’t see past a day, remember who holds tomorrow, reach out in the darkness, hold on, it’s all worth fighting for, I will never let you go.”
“Not Alone” speaks of bring in a place of total desperation and the need for God in our lives. The musical bar brawl “Prison Break,” is about breaking out of the chains of our past and walking in the freedom only Christ can offer, and drives right into the poignant and punchy “Heart Attack,” a bold tune about finding true life in Jesus.
“Will You Catch Me” serves as the most vulnerable song on the album, asking God to be there for us when no one else is, to call us by name and hold us when we feel alone. It has the appeal to become a hit on Christian radio, and I’d like to see it get the airtime it deserves with its real and germane lyrics. Bringing this project to an end is an acoustic bonus version of “Never Let You Go,” which I almost prefer over the previous version. Besides it taking the lyrics to a whole new level, it showcases a different, softer side of Manafest I’d really like to see on future efforts.
The album cover art is a perfect representation of the journey you’re in for with this with project. Musically scaling the side of a mountain, it shares the struggles, temptations, fights and weakness we face as we go about life, but ultimately, standing strong in our faith and watching as God guides us to the mountaintop. Lyrically intense, the musicianship on this record is nearly flawless. Longtime fans will be blown away by Manafest’s musical evolution, throwing hard rock elements against his signature flow, almost mimicking the transformation acts like Thousand Foot Krutch have made over the course of their last several albums. Arguably better than most Top 40 rock, fans of the genre will NOT want to pass this up, and I hope to see several of these songs go on to gain major mainstream exposure.
Fighter is hands down Manafest’s most valiant effort to date, and would be a wise investment of your time to give it a listen. Raw and rock savvy, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.