Plato said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle.”
International rock artist Manafest (real name: Chris Greenwood) knows the saying well; his uphill climb began at age five when his father committed suicide. Years of childhood insecurity and fear gave way to a promising skateboarding career, but then an injury took that away, too. Music soon filled the void, and it would prove to be a perfect fit.
Putting words to driving rhythms gave Chris a way to be a visible light (“manifest”) for other people wrestling with their own junk: strained relationships, betrayals, loss, broken dreams. He knew plenty about getting through the past and working toward the future.
“I’m always there to give you the don’t-give-up message,” he says in a quiet offstage voice that balances out his amped up live presence.
Since 2001, Manafest has battled his way into the business—playing a thousand shows in nine countries, winning an armload of industry awards, and gaining recent victories like his first No. 1 hit, “Bring the Ruckus.” 2010’s The Chase blew up in Japan, quadrupling sales of previous efforts, but it looks like 2012’s Fighter is going to be the real knockout.
Produced by Adam Messinger (Justin Bieber) and Seth Mosley (newsboys), Fighter vents the Toronto native’s losses and draws hurting people toward inspiration like never before. With great hope, the starting title track crunches down hard on life’s oppression while Manafest retells his story to encourage others going through their own hard times.
I never knew my dad; I’d just hide it . . . Down and out I start to doubt / I hit the ground but I won’t break / You can say I’m done, but this has just begun / I’m a fighter.
“I wrote that on tour in New Zealand,” he recalls of the electrifying song that would suit any montage of extreme sports footage. “My history is in there, and I was tearing up writing the lyrics; it was definitely touching a vein.”
On point sonically with past tour mates Skillet and Thousand Foot Krutch, “Pushover” shouts out against bullying, another chapter in Manafest’s early life that helps him relate to what many of his younger fans are likely going through today.
“I got picked on as a kid, bullied at public school,” he says. “I was shy and overweight. Parents write to me now through my web site about their kids and the struggles they face, so I wrote this about standing up for yourself and not being afraid to be a true individual.”
A compelling performer and true individual himself, Manafest says he “sips on Earl Grey tea before I go rip someone’s face off on stage,” and “Never Let You Go”—Fighter’s first single—shows the softer, more spiritually reflective side of his endless pursuit.
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.
“My mom dragged me to church after my father’s passing; faith in God has helped me through a lot,” he says. “This track is more of a ballad, something one of the producers was already working on, a little out of the box for me. But I thought I could freak this in a Manafest way. There are people liking it already in France and South Africa.”
Fighter gets personal in other ways as well. The darkly shaded pop piece “Human” was written after Chris “got in a gnarly argument with my wife” and soon enough returned to grace and peace (Life keeps on moving / by now you should know I’m only human).
“Heart Attack” adds an industrial throb to its catchy rock backbone as Manafest sings about the speed of life and “the need to freaking chill out and slow it down.” Returning to heavenly imagery, he declares: St. Peter, hold the door because I’m coming / Sweet Jesus so tired of running.
There are strong Beastie Boys and Linkin Park influences in the spitfire delivery and grimy guitars on “Prison Break” and the dark alley keys of “Come Alive,” the latter an anthem about dreams coming true no matter what may have come before.
Never say never / out from the dust got better / standing on a Psalm with God on my arm / There’s a hero buried deep inside / Let it out and watch it come alive.
With a message that could be human or divine, “You Are Not Alone” gets to the root of a person’s strength to carry on and sums up the essence of Fighter, an album that will surely empower a growing audience of Manafest fans worldwide.
Let me hold you through the pain / Even on your broken road there’s still hope / I’ll light you up when your flame is out / I’ll pick you up when your world is down.