WPGM Revisits: My Chemical Romance – The Black Parade (Album Review)

No matter how hard we try to resurrect our favourite split-up bands, sometimes we just have to accept the truth and let the once bandmates follow their solo paths. If you were among those who got a little bit confused and – only temporarily – excited by watching the following clip, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. My Chemical Romance called it quits in 2013, but just a couple of months ago, the band made every last breathing emo kid in the world lose it, by teasing this cryptic trailer.

Whether you’re MCRmy members yourselves – aka MCR’s fanbase – or just fans of the band’s 2006 The Black Parade album, you should have heard by now that the date “9/23/16” at the end of the clip does not mark a big My Chem reunion like you might have thought at first; not even a reunion tour to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of MCR’s third and most popular record. It does, however, mean the re-issue of said record, which will include some unreleased demos and mixes along with the original tracks.

And while a lot of album anniversaries were followed by a special re-issue, I find this to be quite a significant one. Not just for the ‘emo community’ but for rock music as a whole. The Black Parade did not only herald an era of bold eyeliner, but also an era where alternative and punk rock would come to the forefront, pushing the remains of an outdated ‘00s pop music scene further aside. Mainstream success sadly came at a price, but more on that later.

First of all, what makes this album unique is the fact that it’s mostly a theme record, telling the devastating story of a person dying from cancer. From the patient envisioning death as a float of masked skeleton figures at a ‘black parade’ to his ‘famous last words’, the album is astonishing in all its dramatic glory as well as the quite imaginative but also raw grasp of the concept of dying.

While some would argue that The Black Parade is as emo as it can get, the music itself is way more uplifting than the story would demand. Sometimes cheerfully rock – like in “Dead!”, “The Sharpest Lives” and “Teenagers” – and other times echoing a more theatrical, Queen-inspired rock opera – like in “Welcome to the Black Parade” and “Mama”.

The only way we could label this record as pure emo, would be if the category itself was redefined by The Black Parade’s mere existence. And it is, since no other ‘emo record’ has managed to sound so sad and so dynamic at the same time.

Wanting to fully bring this powerful story to life during The Black Parade World Tour that followed the release of the album, frontman Gerard Way would go as far as to appear on stage in a robe, as The Patient himself, and then dress in a skeleton suit alongside the rest of the band, all of them forming the actual Black Parade. The band would even appear on TV shows as skeletons, while the MCRmy would also dress in a similar manner – heavy, ‘deadly’ make-up and all.

Obviously, both the album and the tour were a huge success. Somewhere along this morbid madness, though, came a downside; the dying man’s story had started taking its toll on the band. Living in the shadow of a fictional cancer patient, while slowly and inevitably adopting his gloomy mindset, was no easy task.

Way himself admitted that it was hard for him to continue embracing a concept that had served its purpose – being close to the heart of the band members at the time it was written – and that, after a while, felt hypocritical. When My Chemical Romance were finally at a good place in their lives, the black parade was dragging them down.

And so, bringing the curtain down on it once and for all was the only solution. The band then moved on to happier things, releasing their next, very upbeat – almost pop – album, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys in 2010. What still remains surprising, though, is how that record was never supposed to happen. My Chemical Romance was supposed to end all along, right at the peak; right when the black parade was done with its last march.

Speaking to Kerrang! magazine in 2014, a year after the band’s break-up, Way said, “I wrote down titles of records, what they were going to be like and what they were going to accomplish for the band… I never went past the third record because to me the third record was the pinnacle – it was the combination of everything we had learned on one and two but really taken to some crazy extreme.

That was ‘Black Parade’, and when the tour basically ended with us conquering the world, we were supposed to ride off into the sunset. I can’t think of a better ending than that. And that’s what I internally planned for myself as a human being the whole time – this is it, that’s the end”.

But of course, the label would not let a very successful ‘product’ die just yet, and so that sunset was held off for later… At the end of the day, The Black Parade really was the pinnacle of everything My Chemical Romance had accomplished by then and perhaps it would have been the perfect ending to a band that had already influenced so many lives. Even though Danger Days was a decent effort to try something different (and actually succeeded in doing so), I think it could never mean as much; neither to the fans nor to the band itself.

That’s why I find this album anniversary so special. The Black Parade not only marked the death of an imaginary patient, but also that of a much beloved band. We just didn’t know it then. For now, we can only hope for the re-issue to honour its greatness. Comprised of two discs, the album will include the original track list in one and the demos and mixes from The Black Parade sessions in the other.

One of those demos will be “The Five of Us Are Dying”, an early version of “Welcome to the Black Parade”. As promised, and a bit brutally teased, the record is due for release on September 23rd, purchase it on iTunes here.

Words by Konstantina Pyrnokoki

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