My Rating: Must Listen! [4.6 / 5]
Ontario-based Chris Greenwood is an active voice in the CCM rap community, the creator of many beloved rock-rap tracks with a diverse range of themes. His 2015 release Reborn was met with acclaim and though fans came to love many of the hip-hop style songs, there was a longing for the intense rock of previous Manafest classics like "The Chase." Thanks to Stones, Manafest has never sounded any better. It's packed with fiery fight anthems, rock riffs, massive sounds, and intense energy, guaranteed to become a fan favorite and a milestone in his vast discography.
The album opens with the pre-released title track. Right from the beginning, fans get a taste of the album flavor - it's a welcome callback to the rock and electronic days of "The Chase." Electric guitar riffs collide with powerful drums and electronic synths, creating an energetic and upbeat album opener. Its lyrics are a taunt against those who live to tear others down. Harkening back to John 8, the themes of the song are clear - none of us are perfect, but through Christ the critics stand no chance. If anything, "Stones" is the ultimate combination of beloved Manafest classics like "Fighter," "Human," "Diamonds," and even "No Plan B."
Chris and Trevor McNevan have a long history, so it's no surprise that "Firestarter" showcases the best of both albums. Listeners feel the power in the Manafest-style synths and drums and the adrenaline in the TFK-style guitar riffs. Energy and enthusiasm are the rules of the game, making the song a welcome return to Manafest's rap-rock blend roots. Themes of ambition and willingness to shine and show Christ's light dominate the track, resulting in a hype-generating and encouraging track.
Where "Merry Go Round" seems to slow down, the power increases. Deep, massive synths combat with thundering drums, making the track lean more towards an industrial or grunge sound than the traditional rock Manafest is best known for. Its lyrics match the drawn-out and intense sound, describing the frustrations of dealing with people who smile and backstab without remorse. "Kick me down and you try to kiss me, I can't figure it out" Manafest laments, "round and round, can't get off this merry go round."
The album ends on a strong note with the pre-released "Won't Give Up." Drums dominate the track as loose, upbeat electronics balance with gritty guitar chords, only to erupt through the chorus. It's an excellent ending to the album, a tribute to the One who made it all possible. "You build me up when I fall down, You take my hand when I'm alone," Manafest sings, "You pull me up when I fall in, You heal the scars beneath my skin." Through His strength, we press on; we won't give up. The song has already proven popular with fans of Manafest's music and the momentum is certainly bound to continue.
It's clear that Manafest has stepped up to the challenge again, having created something that is guaranteed to become a fan favorite. In fact, Stones has everything fans have come to love - and more. The album is the artist's signature sound, with the energetic fight anthems and moments of resolve that make his previous works so well beloved. For all fans of Manafest's music, stop now and listen to Stones - it's the album you've been waiting for.