REVIEW: MANAFEST – FIGHTER (2012)
If you read Mezzic regularly or are in tune with recent releases from faith-based artists, you would know that Ontario, Canada’s Thousand Foot Krutchhas been getting a lot of buzz surrounding the release of their recent foray into independent music, The End is Where We Begin. Frontman Trevor McNevan is credited with the discovery of skater and rapper Chris Greenwood, widely known by his stage name Manafest.
Manafest has released a total of 5 LPs on the Seattle based imprint of Tooth and Nail Records, BEC Recordings. The latest is the recent release of Fighter. Fighter finds Manafest shedding his old hip hop roots almost entirely and embracing a Trevor McNevan like identity with mixed results. In one sense, artistic evolution is a good thing and to his credit the hip hop vibe doesn’t go away completely. We just find Manafest signing a lot more than normal. Where Trevor McNevan used to take the helm in hooks and choruses, Manafest decided (or maybe his producers did) that he didn’t need any more help.
There’s natural singing, and there’s singing technically in tune that probably took a lot of tries to perfect. The latter category probably belongs to Manafest on this album. Listen to the opening track, “Fighter” for instance. It’s cheesy never-gonna-give-up rap-rock at its finest, but you can just about hear the strain in his voice in the last note of his war-cry “I’m a figh-TER!” That, and the ballad-ish “Never Let You Go” for some reason just doesn’t sound natural for Manafest. He half sings/half raps the verses.
This is not to say that, on its own terms, Fighter is a bad record. It is actually quite catchy and fun. “Come Alive” is particularly catchy. “Pushover,” made into a music video (viewable below) reminds me a bit of “Avalanche” off of the preceding album The Chase (on an unrelated note, I feel like Manafest said he was going to make one rap focused album and one rock focused album back to back, the latter one being The Chase. What happened to the pure rap record?). Thematically, “Pushover” almost serves as the converse to the title track. Proclamations of being a “Fighter” are accentuated by denials of being a “Pushover.”
“Not Alone” sounds like the sequel to “Impossible” from his Glory LP, sans the guest vocals of Trevor McNevan of course.
“Prison Break” is the most angsty, carrying a vibe similar to what one might hear in a RED track, particularly on their Until We Have Faces record. “Throw it Away” begins with a Linkin Park-ish intro. By now, you might be thinking “Gosh, this guy is ripping off bands left and right and you’re claiming you were done bashing him now?” Well, one could argue he is but I would argue he is taking the best elements of several bands and meshing them into his style. Longtime fans risk being bothered by the lack of hip hop verses, while new fans will probably love it. The average music fan isn’t honestly going to care what a critic on a music blog thinks of an artist like Manafest, they will probably hear him on the radio (or at a church youth event) and jump right on board. There’s nothing wrong with that, someone needs to fulfill that niche. Fulfill that niche, Manafest does well.