"The Evanescence fans have been very open and loving, and the Cradle fans have been very open and loving," remarks Schoolcraft cheerily. "I've gotten new fans just from people discovering me on Spotify and YouTube, which is fantastic, and they're really loving it." There has been little negative criticism. "The reaction has been really good, and I'm really happy because I wanted to write music that I liked, that I could listen to again and again, that I could perform again and again. It's really resonating with people. I didn't half ass or rush any of this."
Given her classic background, one would expect tracks like the ethereal "Dawn" and "Blood From A Stone" and harp-laced "Remember," along with the orthodox and Gregorian chants found on "Savior." In fact, the one Cradle of Filth cover she has done before, "Nymphetamine," was rendered as an orchestral ballad, like another pre-Martyr track that her bandmate/vocalist Dani Filth appeared on, called "Fading Star."
Schoolcraft's debut album still has plenty of heavier cuts on it, including the more aggressive "See The Light" featuring guest vocals by Xenoyr, death metal growler for Australian band Ne Obliviscaris. That band did two major tours with Cradle, and she and Xenoyr co-founded the classically influenced black metal ensemble Antiqva, who are in the process of recording their first album. "When I was writing the lyrics, I only heard the harsh vocal bits in his voice so I asked him," recalls Schoolcraft. "His vocals were on the track a week later."
Martyr was co-written with Gray, who provides bass, guitar and programmed drums, and produced and mixed by Tyler Williams of Monolithic Productions, whose credits include Sludgehammer, Invicta, and My Hollow. Although Williams is not an Evanescence follower, he appreciated Schoolcraft's project because "he actually found it to be very unique," she says. "He's known as the metal guy for Ontario, Canada right now."
While she quips that "you don't question someone who's won a Grammy" in reference to Gray, Schoolcraft is such a big Evanescence fan that she could tell when something they worked on veered too close to that band's oeuvre. She would know when something even emulated a demo version, which surprised Gray, but he would adjust to suit what she needed. "There's definitely an essence of him in there," says Schoolcraft, "and the era of music that he created" as one of the Evanescence members on their multi-platinum album Fallen. "He has that flair, that is him, but I wanted to add my own thing to it too."
One surprising influence -- one of her biggest, in fact -- is The Weeknd. Schoolcraft loves the Canadian R&B singer's work. "The song 'Where I Fall' is entirely inspired by his writing style," she reveals. "You'd never catch me rapping, that would never happen. But him as a songwriter and an electronic artist....I love a lot of electronic music and that's something that I've wanted to implement a little bit more of. Here's hoping."
The lyrics to Martyr chronicle a very dramatic relationship as it falls apart and each person hangs on for different reasons. A majority of the album was inspired by "a really tumultuous relationship that never actually became official," explains Schoolcraft. "I just fell into the trap of being enamored by someone, and in the end I found out that they weren't exactly the person I thought they were. I was just one of many girls, and it was a very hard lesson. And in the end, this person just has their issues with dating. They're horrible at dating. When it comes to business and in art, in order to save that relationship, we just had to become friends. That was very difficult for me." She says that while some people can easily cut loose toxic people, in her world she needs resolution and a sense of peace "because you still may have to work with that person."
As far as the other tunes, "Stranger" and "Into the Night" are much older songs that Schoolcraft wanted Gray to modernize, and they are left open to interpretation, akin to the moody Phil Collins tune "In The Air Tonight." The bonus track "Lullaby" is a rocked-up Cure cover from their seminal Disintegration album, while lead single "Savior" addresses an intense, unhealthy relationship that the social media-friendly keyboardist developed with a few fans.
"I genuinely do care about people," acknowledges Schoolcraft. "But unfortunately – and this is no shot against them because I'm very sensitive towards mental health and addiction – it was very dehumanizing because people were putting me on a pedestal. Like I was some kind of god and some of the relationships I had were relying on my response and my word to help them feel better about their situation. If I was spending a weekend with my family or working on something for Cradle of Filth and I wasn't around for a few days, they'd just get mean if they didn't get a response to me. Amanda Palmer has mentioned the whole, 'If you don't respond, I'm gonna kill myself' [thing]. It's just really unfair."
"Savior" reflects that struggle. "They just want to use you like a drug to help them feel better as a temporary fix," she says. "Then they just continue making the same mistakes. It was a really hard experience for me. It was very hard on my mental health, and in the end, I had to distance myself from some people because essentially I couldn't take care of myself."
Her album seems to be searching for resolutions, on top of coping with dark, intense feelings. "Entirely," concurs Schoolcraft. "There's so much anger and disappointment on this album." Those negative emotions have been fueled into something positive, and now that Martyr is out of her head, Schoolcraft has 10 to 14 songs lined up for the follow-up.
"I can hear them all in my head and it's very frustrating because I haven't had a chance to sit down and start compiling them," she says. "Rocky is on board for the second album. I have to give him a blueprint of what's to come, and he's very, very good at that part. Creating with him is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I jokingly call him the Timbaland of rock because anything he does turns to gold. He's incredible. I feel like I have a broken radio in my head, switching from channel to channel, but every channel is a different song. It gets a little bit frustrating, so once I can get back to demoing it'll start to circulate out. Anything I've recorded and released is just not in my head anymore, which is so peaceful."
Another way to get those songs out is in a live forum. Schoolcraft says there have been live concert offers made for spring 2020, and she has a show lined up at the Garrison in Toronto on Dec. 6, plus a show in Montreal the following night. "We're yet to confirm the venue [for the latter], but we have a killer lineup of bands coming with me," she divulges. "I'm excited to bring it to the live stage."
Schoolcraft and her band did a 20-minute set last year opening up for Evanescence and Lindsey Stirling in Toronto. "It was received very, very well," she recalls. "It was only 20 minutes, but I was exposing these songs on the album for the first time. It was hard because the [side] stage was tiny. We made it work. I have a really good live band. We're getting a little bit more production, and we're going to start building towards that because I love being a front person."
Beyond music, Schoolcraft has also inspired a character in the popular black metal comic Belzebubs. She had actually collected a lot of the comics by JP Ahonen because she they were cute and made her laugh, and friends thought that the Gothic metalhead character of Lilith and her awkward, proggy boyfriend were like Schoolcraft and her real-life partner. Soon after, she and Ahonen connected online, and when he needed a female voice for the Belzebubs album tie-in, that led to her contributing and becoming a character in the strip called Skvllcraft.
"I'd like to think she's like a little bit of a Chelsea Wolfe, a little bit of Cristina from Lacuna Coil, and a little bit of me," muses Schoolcraft. "But apparently she's just mainly me. I sang a few songs on the album, and I joke around with the cartoon characters on Twitter a lot. He wants me to be in more of the comics, but he's been very busy with the launch of the album. He has started writing more about the stories again, and it's fantastic because I missed them. It's just weird being a comic book character."
That may be so, but Schoolcraft is clearly comfortable in her own skin and coming into her own as a solo artist. Let the dark times roll.