Ten years really isn't that long. Sure, a lot has changed in the last decade, but looking back upon it, ten years has come and gone, just like that. We're all here, all breathing, reading these words.
The Black Parade was released ten years ago, however, and it has made enough impact to last several lifetimes. It has since become a quintessential alternative rock album, as well as the crux of My Chemical Romance's discography. This rock opera defined a generation of individuals and inspired even more.
The Black Parade is much different than the band's two former records. We've reviewed I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love and Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, both albums serving as important precursors to this one. Both shared a narrative, at least partially, about two lovers chased down, one killed and offering his soul up to the devil in the hopes of seeing his lover one more time. They established My Chemical Romance's obsession with death and its resulting intricacies and emotions, which carries forward into The Black Parade, but in a different way.
The Black Parade isn't about cheating death, but rather it's a celebration of it; an acceptance, even. The rock opera follows the final weeks of The Patient and his battles with the realization of his death. The music represents the chaos and the degradation of it all, vividly portrayed through both the lyrics and the instrumentals themselves.
From beginning to end, this record has endless personality. It comes in different tastes and forms throughout the record while staying cohesive. It begins with 'The End.', anthemically and theatrically introducing the record with a folky acoustic guitar as Gerard Way introduces the album on a light note before the big melodic guitars come in to give the record its anthemic edge. Not long after, 'Dead!' kicks in a more upbeat note, the impressive guitar work paired with a funky overtone. A brass section gives the bridge an extra punch as an anthemic guitar solo kicks into bring the song to its sing-a-long ending.
The record hasn't specifically treaded into death yet. The premise of 'The End.' is to live life to your own terms, not for someone else or by effect. The Patient learns that he has two weeks left to live in the track, and in his denial he tries to combat it by stating that he will live life as he wants to. 'Dead!' follows through on a note with more finality - The Patient thinking of his insecurities he experienced throughout his life.
Things start becoming more real with 'This Is How I Disappear', where the song takes an emotional route and sees The Patient reaching out to his lover, claiming that without her, he is nothing. A sweet sentiment on the surface, but once you then remember he's dying, the tragedy of the situation teally strikes. The song is very emotionally charged, it's immense bridge standing out above the rest of its body. The other song that's utterly heartbreaking is 'Cancer' - everyone's heard this one, so, by effect, everyone's heart has been moved by it. It's impossible to not be affected by the pure agony in Way's voice, whether it be the creaky "Turn away / If you could, get me a drink / Cause my lips are chapped and faded" and or the emotional outburst of "I will not kiss you, because the hardest part of this is leaving you," this song is packed with emotion as The Patient crumbles after learning that it's cancer that's slowly killing him.
Heartbreak, surprisingly, isn't discussed as much as it could be in The Black Parade. 'I Don't Love You' is the other track that delves into that subject, the wholly sweet track seeing The Patient beg his lover to end their relationship before he dies. It's beautifully simple, as well as relatable in the sense that you never want to have to be the one who makes that move.
The album tackles different aspects of dying, instead of keying in on the love side: there's self-destruction, wishing for a second chance, and reflection. There's only one song that doesn't fall under these categories: 'Mama', which steps away from the story of The Patient and instead follows a soldier at war who knows death is upon him, writing a letter to his mother in hopes of mending his relationship with his mother. The song's creepy, dark funkiness sets the soldier's ill fate, the sad crying of his mother indicating his death at the end of the track.
The want of escaping pain is a common element of death. That's discussed in 'The Sharpest Lives', the iconic guitar intro leading into a powerful song that climaxes at its bridge. The lyrics are just fantastic, describing a patient (not necessarily the story's protagonist) finding solace in self-destructive drinking and partying. The chorus is full of amazing metaphors and lyrics: "Give me a shot to remember / And you can take all the pain away from me / A kiss and I will surrender / The sharpest lives are the deadliest to lead / A light to burn all the empires / So bright the sun is ashamed to rise and be / In love with all of these vampires / So you can leave like the sane abandoned me" is voiced powerfully above the heavy guitars.
The Patient takes time to reflect on his life in a couple songs, too. 'Sleep' sounds soft to start before building into a huge ending, with powerful screams throwing it back to the band's previous records. The Patient reflects on how death is stopping him from achieving the dreams he had. In another track, 'House Of Wolves', The Patient wonders about whether he will be sent to Heaven or to Hell above the groovy, brooding, and confident track, its huge choruses elevating the song to epic heights. On a less serious tone, while reflecting on his teenage years, The Patient feels that teens are mistreated and discriminated against, fitting the rebellious vibe of 'Teenager'. He also reaches the conclusion, amongst all these past realizations, that life really isn't all that much in 'Disenchanted'.
Everything comes together at the song that's the core of the album, and to a greater extent, the core of both the band and the genre. That song is the incredible 'Welcome To The Black Parade', a true masterpiece. There's not a single person who won't immediately recognize the song after the first note from its iconic piano intro begins. The Patient comes closer to death than he does at any other point on the album in this song, reliving his sweetest memory in his mind: him and his father watching a parade. There's just so much about this song that makes death seem like not such a bad thing (when it's inevitable). The intro confidently chants "When I was a young boy / My father took me into the city / To see a marching band..." as The Patient discusses the memory. It becomes an incredibly uplifting track as a result of both the instrumental and Way's vocal delivery. There's so much power and confidence in his voice, it's like he's right there next to you, telling you that "We'll carry on / And though you're dead and gone, believe me / Your memory will carry on." It's a celebration of life as much as it is a song about death. It's truly not easy to qualify or quantify just how powerful this song is. It'll always stick by you when you need it there for you, which is one of the best qualities a song can have.
The album comes to its thrilling conclusion in 'Famous Last Words', the album's most empowering track. It was originally written not for the record, but for Gerard's brother, bassist Mikey Way, who battled depression and anxiety and was about ready to quit everything. Upon hearing this track, he agreed to do what he set out to do: live his dream. That's exactly what The Patient does: persevere. This song is the will to live returning to him, as he will not let his life end in this way. He has dreams to live, people to love, things to experience. 'Famous Last Words' ends the record on an epic note, everything from the powerful, driven beat and the electrifying guitar solo to the immense vocals lifts you up and makes you feel like you can do something. The final chorus chants "I see you lying next to me / With words I thought I'd never speak / Awake and unafraid / Asleep or dead," the final, crushing words. Yes, The Patient does die. His lover is there next to him on his death bed as he says his final words to her, his emotions all coming out. The Patient may leave Earth, but he will always live on in the hearts of everyone he loved - that is the essence of death. You leave, but you will live on to others as long as you light that fire bright when you're alive.
The Black Parade is an album amongst albums. It has casual listening appeal and a heartbreaking story in it that provides a thought provoking experience. In the end of it all, however, it's an album full of songs that can truly mean something to someone. These songs have saved lives and given hope to them. They've inspired millions and will forever be buried within their hearts. That's why we're here, ten years later, after My Chemical Romance has been broken up for three years. They will never die because they lit a fire in fans' hearts that will never fade. Take it from MCR: live life to the fullest so that when you die, you'll always be there besides someone. Light your fire and let it burn.
Favorite Tracks: Welcome To The Black Parade, Famous Last Words, The Sharpest Lives, Cancer
Least Favorite Track: Sleep
Rating: 97 / 100