I was recently sent Seraphic’s album ‘Chrysalis’ to review. After listening to it a few times I really felt that I couldn’t give it the review it deserved without first talking to vocalist Sam Wolstenholme. This chat turned into a mammoth discussion around the album and I am extremely glad that I reached out to her to find out more.
I love your album. It is so good. After listening to it I knew I had to reach out and talk to you about it.
Looking at the track listing made me think there was a deeper story to explore.
Yes very much so there is. Obviously with the title ‘Chrysalis’ it’s a figurative reference to the process of metamorphosis but we specifically called it Chrysalis because at that stage the butterfly hasn’t quite emerged. It’s the actual process of transformation. Thematically the journey that the album goes on is very much going from a dark place, a version of yourself that you’re not really happy with. And then shedding a lot of layers and learning a lot of things and transforming into someone that you have always wanted to be. The idea is that it’s not just a linear process, as in you get to a point and that is all the work done. It’s the idea that we are always adapting and transforming in life. That’s the point, we should always be learning, growing and aiming to be better. Being honest with ourselves about the work that we must continue to do to achieve that. Life is so unpredictable, as we have seen this year. It’s been so amazing to see how people who have been flung into challenging circumstances have largely adapted as human beings. We’ve clung on somehow and so many people have been brought face to face with what they thought was impossible but have somehow found a way around it. I believe that everyone has the power to deal with anything that comes their way.
We are a lot stronger than what we give ourselves credit for.
That’s right. That is essentially the overarching message of Chrysalis for sure.
Would you like to go through the songs with me?
I can do them one by one if you like.
I would love that.
I’m flattered that you want to do that. I take as much time and care with the lyrics as I do with the music, especially with this album. The lyrics were just as important, if not more in some instances because it was very much about getting that message out there.
The first song ‘Behind The Veil’ is an instrumental which is an atmospheric intro to the album. It leads nicely into the second song which is ‘Garden Of Unearthly Delights’. I had a brain wave for this song while I was on holiday. I was driving through the bush and the whole chorus came to me fully formed in my head, the lyrics and the melody. It’s about when you realise that it’s human nature to be tempted by things. Part of that growing process is understanding our vulnerability and what could potentially lead us astray. About being aware that side and that potential does exist within us all. As we know it’s about the choices we make. Everyone is complex and we all have basic urges that we deal with. This song is about that part of yourself, actually in psychology it’s the concept of the shadow self, I guess all the things that we repress and that we might be ashamed of.
Because society makes us ashamed of certain aspects of our lives.
Yes correct. We feel a bit lost because we feel like we can’t reconcile that part of ourselves with what we think we should show on the outside to everyone. It’s more about understanding that we are all complex nuance human beings and there will be parts of ourselves that we might be ashamed of, but it’s about, I guess, being honest and authentic about that and knowing that it’s okay. We’re human and we are not going to be perfect all the time. Being honest about those imperfections because that is what makes us unique. Garden is starting off in that dark place, knowing that there are darker parts of yourself that you feel tempted by sometimes and delving into that side that you perhaps don’t want to admit is there. It also touched on when that dark side is taken to the extreme and people having a bit of a God complex and thinking they can transcend normal morality and create a world for themselves where they don’t have to operate by anyone else’s rules.
So that leads really nicely onto ‘Shapeshifter’. It’s fairly self-explanatory. I wrote this song semi autobiographically. I’ve been a musician and performer all my life. I’ve essentially been on stages since I was quite small. I was always a high achiever at school as well. There is always that public persona that you have, the need to perform with the ‘show face’, that perfect side that I would show. I realised that this was at odds with how I felt inside about myself. The comments from people about being so confident and being an amazing performer but on the inside having massive anxiety attacks before any stage appearance. Constantly doubting myself, being super critical, feeling worthless and never good enough. So Shapeshifter is about being who you think people want you to be and trying to please them because on the inside you don’t feel like you are enough. To be honest all the tracks on Chrysalis are personal but this one I was writing at a very difficult time in my life. I’m in a much better place now but at the time I felt like I couldn’t talk to anybody about how I felt. Writing a song about it was the only way I could honestly express my feelings.
The Monster Within is next. Technically this wasn’t a single as part of the Chrysalis campaign. We released this track in 2018 as a standalone at the time, it was a year or so after we had released our debut album. We just wanted to give fans an idea of the direction we were going to take lyrically and musically. So Monster is again a bit darker thematically. To be frank it deals with issues of addiction and substance abuse. Monster was always meant to be more of a sympathetic look into when you are really struggling with your inner demons and you don’t have the tools to deal with that. You feel pretty helpless, so you turn to something like a substance, a crutch to help you escape from that temporarily. And that’s the point, it’s only ever temporary. Your trying to fight that and not give in to those dark thoughts and to those voices in your head. It’s really fucking hard. You do become dependant on that relief you get from whatever it is that is giving you relief. It’s that vicious cycle. I wanted to explore that and write about it having experienced it to some extent. You need to drill down to find out why it is an issue. It’s that real emotional side to it. The battles that you are fighting and what’s underlying because it’s never just a simple story of just getting addicted to drugs or alcohol just because, and it’s never isolated. It’s about what is actually going on underneath.
Midnight is strategically smack band in the middle of the album because it’s called Midnight but also thematically because things start to get more empowered. You’ve dealt with a lot of the messy stuff up until this point, so Midnight is essentially like a turning point. It’s very much about we have a limited time on earth and every moment counts. While we are here, while we have this life, we want to embrace it with both hands. We want to use the time wisely. It’s easier said than done when you are grappling with mental illness and we can’t be performing at peak capacity all the time. It’s about being honest about the fears you have that are holding you back. Acknowledging that you have been holding yourself back with those fears and taking the leap. Facing up to it, not trying to be fearless because I don’t think that is possible but owning the fact that yeah I’m scared but fuck it I’m going to do it anyway. We owe it to ourselves to use this time that we have and to give it a go and make the best of it. Any decision we make will have either a positive or negative outcome, but action is better than inaction. You need to take that step because if you don’t life is just going to pass you by.
Break is the angriest, angstiest track of the album. A close second is probably Phoenix which follows afterwards. I was inspired to write Break after I left a toxic work environment a few years back. The lyrics are quite raw and violent in some instances. Its not a literal illustration of say an abusive relationship or a violent confrontation, it can be construed that way but its more about when you feel backed into a corner. When you feel trapped, and you feel powerless like you are under someone’s thumb. Your screaming and no one will help. But you don’t give up, its I guess starting to fight fire with fire a bit. So not taking shit anymore. Meeting that power with your own power.
So the Phoenix I guess is rising from the ashes.
Literally. This is a really sentimental track for me. It’s about heartbreak when someone has really done a number on you. When you thought they were your world, and you realise everything was a lie. But you don’t let them win. You feel abandoned, betrayed but you come to the realisation that you don’t need anyone to be the love of your life necessarily. You can be the love of your life. Embracing yourself and being able to rise above that real sadness and saying Fuck You, I’m going to love myself more than you ever did. It took me the shortest amount of time to write out of all the songs on Chrysalis. I think because it was something I really wanted to say. I wanted to make a statement. I’m going to live life on my own terms. I’m deserving of much better than what I have accepted before.
Transformed is starting to cradle and nurture the broken parts of yourself. A lot of talking to your inner child, so that vulnerable part of yourself that just needs love and is scared. That needs to feel safe. Realising that there is that part of yourself, and that you need to forgive yourself for some of the mistakes that you have made. Stop punishing yourself with regrets and all that kind of thing, stop neglecting what’s in you that is fighting to get out. Those honest parts of things, starting to piece together a much more complete picture of yourself so that you can live more fully. That’s why it’s called Transformed because it’s about understanding that you no longer need to put on that face, that mask. Actually the way to embrace a happier more truthful life is to show the tapestry of all those things. The good and the bad. All the different experiences that you have had and showing up in a much more honest way. Giving that inner child a bit of love and allowing yourself to just enjoy life.
Chrysalis is the sum of all of the parts. It touches on all the different themes on all the other tracks. It’s kind of a love letter to the transformed self but its also a very fond farewell to the old you. You’re shedding that skin and being able to live more freely. Your saying farewell to that scared, encumbered, repressed person that you once were. And allowing yourself to take that next step in journey you were always meant to be on. In Chrysalis there is a lot of making peace with the past as well. Owning everything that you are and that you have done but deciding not to live in the past anymore. We only have the present and it’s about that, embracing the moment.
It’s been so great having a conversation around the album. I’ve definitely divulged more than I normally would!! It’s important for me, especially with Chrysalis and this release, because it’s a story about my mental health journey but I want it to stand very much as a tool for advocacy. For everyone to be able to be authentic about their own journey and struggles. So I have to practise what I preach so it’s very important for me to be honest and not really hold anything back because I want to set that example. The album has been such a huge part of my life for the last few years and it is a huge musical representation of a huge chapter of my life.
You can hear that which is why I really wanted to talk to you about it.
Thank you for taking the time to deep dive with me about the album, it’s actually been really great.
Chrysalis is a beautifully crafted journey both lyrically and musically. It’s one of those must listen to albums but it needs to be done in one sitting from beginning to end on the first listen to fully appreciate it for what it is. Chrysalis is out now on all platforms.