Lindsay Schoolcraft’s “Martyr” (Album Review)
Sticking out of a lot of albums, that all sound the same, is hard today. If you are critical with what you hear – also on an emotional level – finding new music hard can be hard. This album though is 100% approved to be fresh, original, emotionally accessible and plain out a masterpiece.
Lindsay Schoolcraft, former witch at the keys in Cradle Of Filth, has a very unique style, both in her artistic appearance but also in her musical compositions, which are in no way inferior to those of her other bands. If you haven’t done it yet, buy her album, put some headphones on and take the time out of your day to appreciate her as the independent artist, brand and musician she is.
So who is that Lindsay Schoolcraft whose first band “Mary and the Black Lamb” was founded over one decade ago, and what’s the deal with “Martyr”? Lindsay Schoolcraft, born Lindsay Matheson, released a musical creation for her eagerly waiting fans, which definitely does justice to her name. To understand, what and who she is, let’s talk about what she is not. Some might take her to be only the keyboarder and female vocalist of Cradle of Filth. Even worse, some labeled her work as just some half-assed side-project of one member of a worldwide praised band? Well, they are terribly mistaken. She did come up with an entirely independent, musical masterpiece. By now she quit Cradle of Filth (on good terms) to focus on her own projects and has definitely already outgrown the label of “just a band member”.
Speaking of outgrowing a label, this album was released under Lindsay’s own label Cyber Proxy Independent. While this makes the road to a release a lot more challenging and requires the entrepreneur in an artist to grow strong as well, it definitely allows her to be more flexible with her decisions, especially when it comes to forming her own, unfiltered musical style.
Now we know, that Lindsay Schoolcraft is a name worth memorizing now, but why is that? Let’s talk about her personality a little bit, before going further into her artistic appearance. Lindsay is authentic, honest, wise and in all regards human. Don’t believe me? Look at her social media activities. Even years ago, when this first solo album was still a huge dream, she already shared her ambitions in a cheerful, confident, modest and passionate way. People were able to follow her every small step, seeing the hard work, she put into her huge goal. All the effort – be it physically, emotionally, mentally or intellectually – was transparent for the world to see, including all the small successes and setbacks. This having been a huge inspiration to all kinds of small artists, fuelled her ambitions even more and proved her one hell of a socializer. Mind, that she has always had some wise insights as well as human weaknesses or struggles to share and discuss. Thanks to her authentic appearance, she has established a network and community of artists and art enthusiasts around her by now, not only allowing her, to share her art with the world, but also to give other smaller artists the possibility to grow together as a huge creative family.
So, I have followed and supported her for whom she is for some years, which is a compassionate and highly interactive, wonderful human being. But at the end of last year, it finally became exciting. For the first time, the world would hear her own music. I wondered, will it be good? Will her fans like it the same way, they like her as a person? Spoiler Alert: Yes!
Some might think, that in a time of digital music distribution artwork has become less relevant. While this is true for some bands, it definitely isn’t for “Martyr”. The album’s artwork consists of a depiction of each Lindsay and Rocky Gray (ex-Evanescence drummer, co-producer of “Martyr”) as well as matching portraits for most of the album tracks. All of these designed and drawn by the most talented Anastasia “chronasolti” Solti in her iconic style. Her being another example for smaller artists strongly supported by Lindsay.
Some more words are appropriate here regarding the album cover art. Showing her in a dim-lit cathedral, Lindsay is fully clothed in black, wearing her church-like stained glass headdress. Her pale skin is highlighted by decent dark lips and eyeshadow, especially demonstrating her passion for makeup, which at some point already led her to educate herself as a makeup artist. Also matching the overall color scheme of the artwork are the dark green tips of her hair, which distinguish themselves from her otherwise raven-black hair. This style she wore many years ago already. The sea-like color probably bearing some resemblance to her fascination for mermaids as well. Last but not least, her head is surrounded by a halo of piano keys, not only showing her upbringing with piano lessons and classical music, but also her passion for it. Besides that, of course, it has a biblical and thereby also gothic resemblance, even though in the context of the lyrics this might be in some way mockingly.
Why describe this picture in such depth? Because it showcases in a comprehensive and yet simple way Lindsay’s identity and how she likes to perceive herself. Showing, that she is not only self-aware but also proud of whom she is, this drawing has a radiant and even haunting energy to it, while still being somewhat soothing.
Thematic General Overview
A lot of artists are bound to a certain mood by their musical or emotional scope. However, some artists completely defy this pattern by their emotional and musical bandwidth. They offer an extremely diverse style, varying from song to song or express a lot of entirely different topics in the most realistic and honest way. A great example would be David Bowie. Such artists are truly remarkable and exceptional. And with this debut album, Lindsay Schoolcraft already shows the potential to be one of them.
The emotions addressed in the album’s songs are very broad and partially also quite complex. Some are tragic, bearing stories of desperation, betrayal, manipulation, selfishness or loneliness, most of which are still portrayed in the context of at least a glance of hope to overcome them if not even a huge message of strength. Others are written to inspire, to find closure and to show strength. Most of the songs can be read as letters, written to a person, a group of people or even mankind in general. Additionally, they stay true to the title “Martyr”, as they were probably emotionally challenging to write and express, but also partially tell some brutally honest truths to the world, without regard to personal consequences like rejection. While this is not a concept album, the style of the lyrics and the imagery used is heavily consistent.
The aforementioned topics are fantastically framed by the musical arrangements. Consisting of both classical (orchestra) as well as modern rock and metal elements (band), the album is already quite faceted. Lindsay’s talents as a multi-instrumentalist especially on harp and piano add another layer of variety to the song’s outline. Finally, she is able to use an extremely broad range of clean vocal styles (classical, opera, pop, rock, etc.) as well as tone heights and depths. While this might sound like a good mixture of already existing styles, “Martyr” is in no way recycling or imitating anything currently existing. While it is inspired by some influences, it is something entirely new and makes one question the importance and meaning of genres. And even though, Ethereal Gothic Rock – as stated on the official Lindsay Schoolcraft website – sounds fitting, it still leaves the question open, if something so unique can even be put in one box in a rather general way.
The overall profile of the album is not simple or catchy, but it is not overly complicated either. It is balanced in a perfect way of expressing the underlying themes. Even though the musical structures or used sounds and instruments are not particularly progressive, Lindsay is able to use her compositional genius and a broad range of vocal styles and registers to create a diversified portfolio of songs. Portraying various different emotions and topics in such an impressive manner by making use of her individual talents and personality traits makes this album one of the most honest, real, satisfying and refreshing pieces of musical creation currently out there. This first full solo album of Lindsay Schoolcraft sets a unique milestone in the progress of modern music and showcases her as a luminary artist, whose close connection to her own emotions will definitely allow her to create even greater things in the future. Keep an eye on her, for whenever you feel that a lot of music becomes a dull, similar whole, Lindsay seems to be providing something simple yet refreshingly and uniquely new.
Track by Track
The emotional depth and the contents of the lyrics alongside her multiple talents and how she individually uses them, deserve a detailed analysis of the single tracks in the following section. Of course, any interpretation is highly subjective and while partially consistent, might probably differ entirely from the author’s intention.
Originally, the album was scheduled to be released half a year earlier. While this had some other benefits as well, the main reason was, that the music video for Savior needed to be recorded on a certain location, which unfortunately postponed the reservation on short notice. Any questions on why this video was essential for the album release, are answered fully by the video itself. It is besides the cover of The Cure‘s “Lullaby” the most perfect teaser for the album. Not only does it show Lindsay in a fantastic gothic attire and is brilliantly recorded and cut, but also is it set in a cathedral, which sets the basic mood of the album and also consistently continues the biblical imagery of the “Savior” and “Martyr”. All of this together not only matches the first song’s contents in a simple yet perfect way but also allows us to get a good glance of the individual and original gothic art brand Lindsay Schoolcraft. The lyrics take us deep into Lindsay’s roots and tell who she is to those who haven’t known her before.
She says here, that she is not the savior for the others and not responsible to solve their problems. While this might sound a bit selfish at first glance, it is actually a self-defense mechanism of someone who is occasionally overwhelmed or even drained by the number of people searching for help and then not even remotely taking the given advice into account. But it is also and even more importantly supposed to inspire people to try to solve their own problems. Of course, not stating, that people should not ask for help, when they feel like needing it, but rather telling people to believe in themselves, to try accomplishing things on their own, they can be proud of and to find strength in themselves.
The song is apparently very personal for Lindsay. Her rapidly growing fan base and her way of addressing each one of them occasionally drained her batteries. The song summarizes her opinion and also evolves her mindset, by opening up to the outside world.
These circumstances and the strong yet hard message require a carefully chosen, authentic, truthful expression, which Lindsay Schoolcraft is perfectly capable of delivering. With several different vocal styles, different musical moods, ranging from heavy rock to soft, quiet melodies, all of her main instruments (harp, piano, voice), a fantastic orchestra arrangement and a fantastically chosen band, we already get a good view on the broad range, we can expect in this album and that Lindsay has to offer. And this is only the first song! Meaning, there is so much more to come.
I would not like to go too far into the details of this song, as I unfortunately already saw some snippets from a video, in which Lindsay explains its actual intention. However, I can try to summarize them briefly. It’s about the toxicity of a lot of people on online dating platforms. It is about narcissistic, ruthless, manipulative individuals, who do hurt a lot of people and don’t even care about it. In this way, the song is a warning for people to be better safe than sorry.
“Stranger” seems to tell the story of someone trying to fill a void of pain or loneliness with superficial inter-human encounters. But at the same time, there is the cry out for someone to really understand the lyrical identity and to stay with the person even until the morning. There is a fear of only being used or of just having to be alone at the end of the evening here. This is not only the fear to become another one-night-stand though but also the desire for emotional connection and true companionship. The song showcases different emotions especially by the use of different vocal styles. While it starts with a quiet voice with a lot of breathing accompanied by harp and piano, it develops into an emotionally charged vocal style, soon already calling drums and guitars to the stage. Especially after the bridge, the song builds up to its climax in a rather heavy manner.
“Into The Night”
Fans of Lindsay’s earlier work might already know this song, as it was published on the EP ”Rushing Through The Sky” before. It seems to be a message of “don’t give up, I am here to help you”. It’s about forgiveness, fear and support. The person, calling out to someone else, seems to go to great lengths, to comfort and help the other one. Ultimately, it is a rather tragic story with a desperate plea, to go on fighting, or it might be lost forever. The dramatic atmosphere of the song is additionally underlined by a grave musical frame and – of course – Lindsay’s very authentic expression, both, on her instruments but also with her voice.
“Blood From A Stone”
This one is my favorite song, both musically and lyrically. In this softer song, Lindsay shows her expertise at the piano, which she already learned at a rather you age. Furthermore, the notes distinctively chosen here to create this emotional ballad in a highly relatable manner, shows, that she also did her homework regarding music theory. Some of the parts here are definitely extremely advanced to sing yet Lindsay masters them making the song even more haunting, in the portrayal of its uncomfortable, uneasy, sad and maybe even a little angry, disappointed or morbid contents.
The song seems to be about a troubled soul. Someone, who just cannot give love. Someone with mental issues. Someone, who probably died, maybe even took his own life because of these struggles. And ultimately someone, who will never be understood properly, as nothing besides mystery and letters burned in anger remain of him.
Personally, I hear great desperation in this song, saying something like “It hurts me to see how you treated yourself. It hurts me that you cannot love, not even yourself”. While this is the interpretation of this song I can relate best to, there seems to be a more obvious and probably more relatable second valid interpretation here. Being, that the song is about the lyrical identity having been deceived by someone, it loved, whereas the other one is someone, who only uses people but never truly loves them because it can or wants not.
Give a listen to it and find out for yourself, what you see in the song. Musically though, it is, without even talking about its lyrical contents, a masterpiece.
Dawn is an entirely instrumental song, allowing Lindsay Schoolcraft to also demonstrate her other talents for once not overshadowed by her massive vocal talents. In the album, the song thereby works as an intermezzo. The piano continuously plays up to the climax of the song in a dramatic and suspenseful way. All the while sounding a little bit like the ticking of a clock, that counts down the time to the sunrise, in the time, when the last moments of the night and the first moments of the day seem to overlap, in the dawn.
This atmosphere is further strengthened by the powerful bass pulses and the almost cathartic, spiritual vocals. They seem to be echoing endlessly, triggering images of a vast desert, over which the sun slowly but steadily rises. Emitting a divine aura, the sun seems to be unstoppable by the human hand. And in a similar way, as unforgiving, lonely or tense the night might have been, there will inevitably be a morning after, a sunrise during dawn. This dramatic up-build is ended by a few quiet harp notes, which seem to be almost soothing compared to the tense atmosphere that is dominant most of the song.
“Remember” me, when you are out there, struggling, fighting, seemingly alone in some sort of mental struggle (making this consistent with the contents of “Blood from a Stone”) or an actual war. The song is a desperate and beseeching call to someone, that seems to be hard to reach emotionally or physically. It’s telling the person, that it is not alone and that there is always a home, a safe place to come back to. Especially this plea is fantastically underlined by a dramatic string orchestration throughout the whole songs as well as Lindsay’s extremely expressive voice.
“See The Light”
In this song, we hear some fantastic harsh guest vocals by Xenoyr, a good friend and fellow musician of Lindsay’s in their common project Antiqva. In this inspiring song, his growls express some hard truths.
“See The Light” is a call to inspire unity against suppression., It’s about the spark of bravery, that allows to break the cycle of suppression and to ignite a fire of unity, an army, that is strong enough to fend off this unfair behavior. My first thought was the misogynism addressed by #metoo, but this song can and should, of course, be an inspiration to be brave in all kinds of suppressing situations.
The song points out that someone has to begin the change and the lyrical identity inspires to raise a voice “loud and clear”. Even the least can make a difference and demand justice.
At the beginning of the song, we have the figurative chains of all the ones trapped in their mind with their circumstances, but in the end, we hopefully speak about the actual chains of the ones brought behind bars for their behavior.
“Where I Fall”
Asking to be left alone, this song addresses a rather hard truth, people sometimes have to accept. The truth, that some people need to be alone every once in a while, to get back to their full energy level and to be their true selves. They need to be able to enter their retreat (“Where I Fall”) and to enjoy some quality alone time, even if it is something, that someone else is not allowed to understand or to accompany you in. It’s about people having the full right to lock out everyone and everything regularly without having to care about the expectations or the understanding of others. And sometimes, it is even so urgently necessary to care about yourself once again, after having neglected yourself to only take care of other peoples well-being and opinions for too long, that you don’t have the energy left, to properly explain, why you need to be for yourself now. And for these moments, “Where I Fall” states in the most powerful way, that it is the full right of people to not explain themselves, to be what some might call selfish and that it is not only the duty of others to be empathic and understanding but that they are also basically forbidden from putting pressure on someone who feels that way. This song says, that this retreat, this time and place is mine, I need it, I won’t let anyone take that right from me and I won’t explain myself either. And thereby, it explains a complex yet basic human emotion to people, who are not aware of this. It helps us to also take better care of ourselves and others in the most compassionate way, something Lindsay is basically known to be preaching for quite a long time now.
“My Way Without You”
This song is a rather soft ballad, utilizing a minimalistic yet captivating piano composition and emotionally extremely authentic, most of the time solo vocals. The arc of suspense across the song is designed very deliberately and in a quite befitting way. Allowing the listener to understand the emotional situation of the lyrical identity in a way, that it makes one shiver while listening closely. It seems that this song actually allows Lindsay to find closure with a situation in her past while writing and singing it. Being about a (not even necessarily romantic) relationship, that ended a long while ago, and that every now and then still haunts her in her dreams or still triggers a struggle in her mind. In the song, she says, that she can and will now live without the other one emotionally as well as spiritually and that this song is her line in the sand, where being occupied with the scars has to finally end.
Lullaby is a cover, originally released by The Cure in 1989. The Cure are a band from an older generation of goth, that I’m far too young to have really experienced properly. Therefore, I did not know, that it is a cover song until I heard it a few times and even though I find the original song – especially the bass line – to be quite cool, in my eyes the interpretation of Lindsay is the far better version. Of course, this is my personal subjective taste. Instead of the bass, we have the harp and acoustic drums here as well as a far more atmospheric and ethereal sound. This song, especially since it is a cover song, is a fantastic demonstration of the musical style of Lindsay Schoolcraft when compared to the original. It showcases her own personal note and talents, which one can see even better in contrast to the version of The Cure.
I also find this an interesting choice, as it shows, that Lindsay has her roots in this genre and stayed true to herself, all the while having developed a fantastic individual sound profile though.
“Warn Me” / “Betrayal”
Wait a moment. On the streaming platform of my choice, the album ends here. I know what you think. What kind of dark magic is that? One day before the actual album release, Lindsay allowed people to listen to the album on Soundcloud already. But only 11 songs there. After having ordered the album, I listened to the songs on Spotify as well, until the delivery date. Still, only 11 songs. Only when I received the actual CD, put it in my car radio and listened to it for quite some time, I noticed, that something is off.
Yes, there is a limited edition of this album, which contains two equally fantastic bonus tracks. My advice? Buy a CD in Lindsay’s online shop as soon as possible. Not sure how many of these are left and as far as I can see by the number on mine, there are only 500 of these gems.
You might think now, why buy it, if I can search for it online. Someone will probably already have uploaded it somewhere. First, and I find that to be a truly fantastic circumstance, the songs are not easy to be found online anywhere up until now. Second, of course, the artist has not a single cent of this. So please, if by any chance you can afford it, buy the album. Trust me. It’s worth the expense.
Excuse My Obsession
By now you will share my passion for Lindsay’s album and will excuse my obsession. And this has a history, I dare bother you with here. In 2015 Cradle of Filth released the album “Hammer of the Witches”. Having been a huge fan of the band for years, I basically listened to the first single release “Right Wing of the Garden Triptych” of the said upcoming album the moment it went online. Looking back now, keyboards and female vocals have been an essential part of the band’s overall sound for a long time before that and still, I never paid a lot of attention to it. This changed instantly with said song’s intro, sung by the most talented Lindsay Schoolcraft.
Being an ambitious multi-genre vocalist myself, I soon sang along to her parts and had the greatest fun. And soon after that, I also discovered Lindsay’s Social Media presence. Turns out she has been very closely interacting with her fans, providing them with a lot of insights.
She has been promoting the art of others, giving the most compassionate and wise advice to everyone. In the most humble and modest way, she has shared the challenges of building up a solo career and performing in a world known metal band. Openly accepting faults as well and being most empathic and authentic, Lindsay is the most human and down to earth artist I ever met. Without questioning her talent or professionalism, this prevents from putting her up on a pedestal and instead allows fans to see her as both, an artist and one of us.
If you can’t get enough of Lindsay Schoolcraft, you might also stay tuned for any updates on her other project Antiqva, her upcoming electric harp album, her collaborations with the Belzebubs as “Skvllcraft”, her YouTube channel and her other social media channels.
After her first mini solo tour in Australia before the release and some album release shows in Canada, larger tours are most likely happening soon, too.
Bottom line: Buy her album, see her live, follow her on social media and follow up on her projects as one of many fellow ‘Schoolcraftians’ (as the smol elf charmingly calls her fantastic fan community).
A huge thank you to Ms Cesar Little and Friend X for their support in writing this review.
This album is an extraordinary example of how a dream, high ambitions, a lot of talent and hard work incidentally can become something great, something destined to be. This mixture of sweat, tears and heart blood can be seen all over the album and makes this such an appealing and authentic release. There are some rare albums which are so full of the history they endured to come into existence, which are so refined and honest depictions of their respective artist, making them so original, that they only appear every few years in all of music, even across all borders of genres.