Label: BEC Recordings
Reviewer: Lee Brown
- Throw it Away
- Come Alive
- Never Let You Go
- Not Alone
- Prison Break
- Heart Attack
- Will You Catch Me
- Never Let You Go (Joel Bruyere Acoustic Mix)
Back in 2010 Manafest dropped The Chase, an album which earned the rapper/rocker truckloads of critical support and expanded on a following which he has been building since his debut in 2001. The Chase produced Manafest’s first No. 1 single “Bring the Ruckus,” and earned him a spot on international tours with the likes of Thousand Foot Krutch and Skillet. Fast-forward two years and Manafest brings the ruckus again with Fighter.
If there’s one thing that hits you when listening to Fighter, it’s that this album is very true to its name. Wrapped up in each of the eleven tracks is a message defined by positivity and the will to get up and make a difference. If anyone out there needs a new album to spin while working out, trying to get through hard times in life, or just to put a little fire under you, look no further.
The album begins with the title-track “Fighter.” First tracks are incredibly important to any album in how they set the tone for the rest of what’s to come and “Fighter” certainly sets the right tone for this album. The opening lyrics take you on a journey through the lows of depression and pain with a reference to the fact that Manafest never knew his father (who committed suicide when he was just 5 years old). However, unlike many artists out there who would make the macabre the main focus, “Fighter” quickly works towards redemption through the battle cry “I’m a fighter.” This battle cry characterizes not only the rest of the song, but also the remainder of the album.
It is immediately apparent in “Fighter” that Manafest has stretched himself vocally. Whereas in 2010’s The Chase Manafest often sounded a little too much like a Trevor McNevan clone (not to mention the many guest appearances Trevor actually had on the album, as well), even aping certain TFK styles of instrumentation. While influences from the likes of TFK are certainly still apparent, “Fighter” proves that Manafest is ready to unleash a voice all his own. The second track, “Throw it away,” reinforces this vocal divergence. The initial impression this track gives off is more of a Sum 41 meets TobyMac vibe that comes together in a way that only Manafest could pull off. As much as the hook to “Fighter” will get stuck in your head, “Throw it away” is the sort of track that you’ll simply want to come back to again and again.
“Pushover” continues the overall theme of the album with a message that takes a stand against the forces in life that try to bring us down. With lyrics like “You don’t know me now, I’m not a pushover. I won’t play your games… You can’t fill these shoes, you can’t make me move,” the continual message of empowerment and “getting back up” are brought to the forefront. “Human,” a track which was written after a particularly nasty argument with his wife, tackles the fact that we’re “only human” and are capable of falling and failing. This track is appropriately followed by “Come Alive,” which embraces the message of “Human,” yet brings the listener back into the fight by challenging them to take their wings and fly again.
“Never Let You Go,” the first single from Fighter, takes the theme of “Come Alive” and spins it from God’s perspective with the promise that, “I will never let you go.” If there is a “Christian radio-friendly” track to pick out, this is certainly it. With the barrage of faster and more intense tracks that sit on either side of it, “Never Let You Go” takes a short venture into a softer and more accessible style. Don’t mistake “softer” with less intense, however, as the message of ”Never Let You Go” is possibly the strongest on the album when it comes to God’s love for His broken creatures.
“Not Alone” picks right back up where previous tracks leave off, musically and thematically. Serving as a sort of bridge between “Never Let You Go” and “Fighter,” “Not Alone” gives the imagery of battle with lyrics like, “I know what you’re fighting for, you’re in the middle of a war” and utilizes God’s perspective in saying “there’s still hope, you’re not alone. Tell Me what you’re waiting for, just open up the door. To give you hope. You are not alone.”
“Prison Break” takes the fight to the doorstep of a life of addiction that binds people up into a “twisted and tattered” world. The focus of the track is encouragement to “break out” of the lies that humans buy into that really keep us bound to sin and failure. “Heart Attack” follows a similar theme of going non-stop and losing perspective on life. Similar in style and message, these two tracks paint a masterful picture of both the problems we face and the ultimate solution found in Christ.
In the last original track on the album, “Will You Catch Me,” Manafest brings the album to a close by posing the question, “Will you catch me when I fall down?” to God. Thematically, this track encompasses the message of many (if not all) of the previous songs by incorporating elements of failure, drug addiction, depression, and desperation which are redeemed through God’s powerful hand.
Overall: Manafest is a man on a mission. With singular focus Fighter takes the listener through the hollow shells of life we as fallen humans often find ourselves clinging to and encourages us to fight for a newness of life that can only be found through God. Musically, Fighter is a solid album with a style that fans of Thousand Foot Krutch and Skillet should be right at home with. Thematically, Fighter is like a bulldog that has sunk its teeth into a message of hope through adversity. Every single track offers encouragement to place your hope in God while fighting for what the enemy has stolen.
It may be tempting to knock the album for refusing to stray from this one central theme across it’s eleven tracks, but this would be a mistake. The message of Fighter is one that people of all ages can relate to and certainly need to hear more in their lives. Think of this album as the musical version of the Apostle Paul’s letter of encouragement to the Philippians. In the end, Fighter is a shot of adrenaline which should leave any listener feeling more encouraged and empowered. When listening to Fighter, it’s hard not to yearn for a simple joy and peace that so often feels just out of reach in life.