3rd Quarter Of 2016 In Music - Wrap-Up

Perhaps a bit overdue, but better late than never. Here's a summary of what we listened to in the third quarter of 2016 (July - September) and links to albums we've reviewed.

5-Star Albums (85 - 100)

4-Star Albums (65 - 84)

3-Star Albums (45 - 64)

2-Star Albums (25 - 44)

1-Star Albums (0 - 24)

  • None!

Throwback Reviews


Top Albums Of 2016 (so far)

  1. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
  2. AURORA - All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend
  3. Panic! At The Disco - Death Of A Bachelor
  4. Deftones - Gore
  5. Dream Theater - The Astonishing
  6. Foxes - All I Need
  7. Sin Fang - Spaceland
  8. Daughter - Not To Disappear
  9. Gojira - Magma
  10. Thrice - To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere

Top Songs Of 2016 (so far)

  1. AURORA - 'Murder Song (5, 4, 3, 2, 1) (Acoustic)'
  2. Radiohead - 'True Love Waits'
  3. Deftones - 'Hearts/Wires'
  4. Radiohead - 'Daydreaming' *
  5. Panic! At The Disco - 'Emperor's New Clothes'
  6. Foxes - 'Better Love'
  7. Lacey Sturm - 'Rot'
  8. AURORA - 'Through The Eyes Of A Child'
  9. Deftones - 'Phantom Bride'
  10. Thrice - 'Black Honey'

As always, thank you so much for reading our reviews and visiting our website! If you don't want to miss out on any reviews, check out our social media: we're on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr!

My Chemical Romance - Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys

Building a timeless legacy is a near impossible feat. To live on in others' hearts after you are gone is something we all strive for; it is the human form of immortality. Such an immense task it is to create that endless recognition, surely only the greatest of the great can achieve it.

The answer is both yes and no. Yes, it does take someone great to live on forever in such a way. But you don't have to be a legend to live on in others' memories. Anyone can be immortal. All that they have to do is live their life as they want to and be who they are - live life how you wish to be remembered.

People may struggle with that, and then, in turn, those who help them realize otherwise become the ones who will live on in their hearts. For millions upon millions, that's My Chemical Romance. Their music gave both the happy and the sad a place to confide in, whether for enjoyment or for hope.  

It's been three years since the band called it quits. Some may have called it the end of something life-changing, but can such a thing really just come to an end? Just because they have stated that they are no longer a group together, their messages and music will always be here, perhaps more alive than ever. That hasn't changed just because the band won't be releasing new material again.

It's been a decade since their magnum opus The Black Parade was released, so we've been reviewing all of their records from start to end this month: I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your LoveThree Cheers For Sweet Revenge, and, of course, The Black Parade. We've now reached the end of the road (barring Conventional Weapons, but we'll save that for another time). The band saw a lot of change, from the punk abrasion of their debut to the anthemic, theatrical chaos of The Black Parade, but what they last offered up was something you might not have expected from them.

Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys is My Chemical Romance's final album, released in 2010. It may be the band's most eclectic record, but it also isn't all that unfamiliar. In true MCR fashion, the record tells a story throughout its runtime. It's set in post-apocalyptic California, now in the Land Of The Fabulous Killjoys, where the rambunctious are the world's leaders while the outliers hide back in the shadows and stay quiet.

The clearest innovation on this record (for the band) is the emphasis on electronic elements. My Chemical Romance had never really delved into this space; their music took guitars and melody as their primary source of appeal, with the occasional funky instrumentation and piano finding their way into the music. The same band that wrote 'Welcome To The Black Parade' is the band performing 'Planetary (GO!)' on this record, the video game boss sirens introducing the track as glitchy electronics and sweeping synths fill the verses before the upbeat, dancey choruses kick in with bouncy beats and rhythm guitar punches in between. The message behind the track is essentially that life is short (the first chorus croons "If my velocity starts to make you sweat / Then just don't let go / And if their Heaven ain't got a vacancy / Then we just... get up and go," encouraging its listener to just get up and do what they want to with life), but it's evident throughout the track that the meaning isn't really meant to be the focus of the track. It serves its narrative purpose, but the main goal of the track is to get you amped up and get you dancing, pairing it with the bouncy synths and electrifying energy. The scenario is the same in 'S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W,' which shows a side to the band we've never gotten a good taste of. It's goody and has a sort of uncaring abandon to it - it's powerful and ballad-y just like it should be, but it's lacking of any darkness (in sound). The chorus is sung falsetto, the light vocals and bright instrumental making the song sound happy.

Electronica has a major influence on the record, making it stand out among the rest of the band's discography. It's also the build of 'The Only Hope For Me Is You,' its pretty, wavy intro leading into thick bassy synths that can be comparable to CHVRCHES in today's music. The choruses are closer to the MCR we'd all grown to love, rhythm guitar chugging with drive, the synth arpeggios running beneath them and Gerard Way's sweet melody. The song plays to a theme of the record that no matter how crazy the world may seem, you can always find your place in it and find the person you're meant to live in it with.

The album is completely electronic, of course; MCR does a fantastic job of blending their alternative rock flair with their new fascination with electronics. The best example is iconic single 'SING,' its intro up there with some of the band's most memorable moments. The verse is a brooding build as synths slowly grow over each other before a sweet instrumental underlies Way's encouraging chorus. The song has a drama to it that's very reminiscent of their past works, the drums and piano really creating urgency and even some darkness in the track. The bridge brings it back to basics, Ray Toro taking over with a confident guitar riff with layers of guitar that build up to make the bridge powerful and immense. It's one big call to arms, bringing all together to be free.

'Summertime' is a sweeter song that's not out to hype anyone up. It's just as good a blend of electronica as 'SING' is, perhaps with a bit more emphasis on the electronics, but it's remarkably more cheerful. The guitar solo in the bridge pairs with the bright, subtle synths perfectly. The song sees Gerard singing "if you stay I would even wait all night / Or until my heart explodes" in an almost confessional way, crooning about how love and his wife got him through some truly rough spots in life.

The track 'Bulletproof Heart' is the spiritual predecessor of 'Summertime,' though this one has more finality to it than hope. It actually feels like the appropriate summation of the end of My Chemical Romance. The unintentional foreshadowing unfortunately did not end up making saying goodbye any easier, but it does provide justification. The chorus has the submissive lines "Gravity / Don't mean too much to me / I'm who I've got to be," Way admitting that the intensity of the situation is of less significance than what it build him up to be. He isn't bounded by the laws or expectations everyone has of him; he has lived his own life and has become what he wanted to become, and that's all that matters to him in the end. The song ends in a huge, uplifting way, the choruses' Queen-esque harmonies pairing with a guitar solo to bring it to its dramatic, emotional ending. This song could've closed the record in an ironic but brilliant way.

With all of this sentimentality, we can't ignore the heavier, rawer tracks on the record. We don't see many with pure rock flair, but where it does exist, it's awesome. 'DESTROYA' is one example, the raw, tribal beat pairing with a vocal delivery full with reckless abandon à la the Beastie Boys, lovely guitar that imitates the vocal melody in the final choruses. The lead single 'Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)' (that took very careful counting) also has a rawer voicing to it, and while the whole "na na na" part of the song can be hard to swallow at first, they do grow on you and make the song all the much better. The guitar riff is all the hype, the chorus harmonies also making the song special. It's an underdog song, much like 'DESTROYA,' calling upon the dreamers who "want to change the world" to get out there and do it.

I claimed that 'Bulletproof Heart' could've been the perfect ending to the record, but the way it does end isn't all that bad. 'The Kids From Yesterday' is uplifting in the best of ways, the chorus lyrics really hitting hard in particular: "And you only live forever in the lights you make / When we were young we used to say / That you only hear the music when your heart begins to break / Now we are the kids from yesterday," stating that you can't live forever in a literal sense: you live in the memories you make. People may not recognize the significance of those memories every moment, but when you need something to rely on, they'll be there. Dr. Death, the radio show host that appeared in narrative interludes throughout the record signs out on 'Goodnite, Dr. Death' with a concert band performance of 'The Star-Spangled Banner' that concludes in earsplitting noise (thanks, MCR) before the final track 'Vampire Money' rolls in.

This is it - the final song in the band's discography (not counting the collections released after this record or bonus track 'Zero Percent'). Take a second to absorb that in, then forget all about it in the crazy fun of 'Vampire Money.' Way's obsession with death and its carriers followed him all the way to the end of the band. The album's closer a crazy and unrelenting in the classic My Chemical Romance fashion, the pure rock n' roll vibes and surfer rock solo blasting confidently with the same energy and craziness of 'Party Poison' with its Japanese spoken word and electronic explosiveness. 'Vampire Money' is a blast on the media, but like mentioned before, the meaning is almost lost in the track's sound. It's a big, confident, fun ending to a legacy that will live forever.

That concludes the story of My Chemical Romance. The final words of 'Vampire Money': "This party, I think it's way too loud. Going to have to turn it down a little, sorry" in an ironically innocent note. The band who both cheated and romanticized death "die" in a party on a light note. Perhaps that's what it was: this crazy, wild ride was a party. We had fun, we had emotions (at times just drunken euphoria, really), and at the end of all, we had to admit when we had had enough before we got ahead of ourselves.

My Chemical Romance is an entity that will never die, despite their constant obsession with death. They told brilliant stories and sent assuring messages to those who needed them. This band saved lives and gave light to others. The band may not be more than a memory, but sometimes memories are all we need. Their meaning will never be lost as long as we cherish what made them so important to us in our hearts for as long as we can remember them. Thanks for the music, My Chemical Romance. May we meet again one day - in heaven or hell, or maybe even here on Earth is yet to be seen, but we all know that the end is never really the end.

Favorite Tracks: Bulletproof Heart, Sing, DESTROYA, The Only Hope For Me Is You, The Kids From Yesterday

Least Favorite Tracks: The interludes (especially Goodnite and it's earsplitting screeching)

Rating: 95 / 100

Frank Iero and The Patience - 'Oceans'

"The world may fall apart" has taken a new meaning for Frank Iero and The Patience. The band was involved in a car crash while on tour in Australia, when a bus rammed the back of their vehicle. All of the members have survived, but some faced severe injuries. The band has cancelled the remainder of their tour dates in 2016, but their album Parachutes is still due out next week, and as a thank you for the fans' support, they've released 'Oceans' ahead of the record.

While it's the band's second record, it's the first under the moniker of Frank Iero and The Patience. Their name change did not change their sound, though. Frank Iero's defeated vocals are still present above the punk, distorted guitar riffs. The song builds up from just a beat, palm muted guitars, and Iero's single vocals into a blistering chorus with angrier vocals.

As the song progresses, Iero sounds more and more anguished. The second choruses' chunky basses follows his pain as he admits, "You’re still a part of me, the only part I enjoy, and I wish I still had a hold on you like you do, until you’re blue, around my throat." The song is about love in a last resort sort of way - Iero's lover is the only thing he loves about himself.

The song's grittiness and rawness gives its meaning a little edge. That's what Frank Iero has excelled at, whether it was with My Chemical Romance or solo. His songwriting was unique and had an edge to it that made the meaning stronger. We wish him and his bandmates a speedy recovery, and we're sure Parachutes will be a standout for his career if 'Oceans' is any indication.

Rating: 84 / 100

My Chemical Romance - The Black Parade

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

My Chemical Romance - Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge

Last week, we reviewed My Chemical Romance's debut record, the punk precursor to their emo takeover I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, which you can read here. The album follows the story of two "demolition lovers," who run from the authorities who are trying to capture them. In the end, he is killed and sent to hell while his lover continues to live.

Or so you thought. The narrative doesn't intentionally continue throughout the band's followup, but it certainly carries on the theme. Besides the story, Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge is a largely stronger album than its predecessor, freshening up the band's sound and moving them towards the sound they became known for.

The album generally drops the complex song structures and generally raw, abrasive nature of I Brought You My Bullets. Instead, MCR is met with an album in which Gerard Way described as "pseudo-conceptual horror story." It's largely a tale of personal disaster: the hardships of life, the struggle of love, and even the grief of losing a loved one. All of this is done with an innovative album caught in the crossfire between punk rock and the rising pop punk and emo movement.

The remnants of I Brought You My Bullets can still be found throughout the album. The most similar-sounding song is 'Its Not's A Fashion Statement, It's A Fucking Deathwish', which not-so-coincidentally was the first song written after the release of the former record. The song discusses a love that doesn't fade, whether or not it was a good or bad thing. Similar elements of the song to its precursors are its rawer guitar and forward propulsion set forward by the drumming. What makes it part of Three Cheers is its conscious sense of melody. The former had concentration on the workings of the song rather than its sound. 'Give 'Em Hell, Kid' is another track with a similar punk rock vibe, but in a much more refined way, the production of style of Three Cheers aiding it. The verses are crazy and full of surprises, the choruses strong and melodic, all leading to a giant ending. The album did earn the band a reputation, but it was this record that truly skyrocketed them. 

The album's singles are also to thank for the band's popularity being sent into momentum. Listening to this album today, it's hard to not sing along to the anthemic chorus of 'Helena' that chants "What's the worst thing I can say? Things are better if I stay / So long and goodnight." It's almost as iconic as the piano intro of 'Welcome To The Black Parade', but in a sing-a-long sort of way rather than being the defining song of emo rock. The beautiful lyrics and melodies are backed by a thrilling, alternative rock instrumental. The lyrics somewhat relate to the demolition lovers, as the character reminds herself that anger won't get her anywhere past the grief of losing her lover.

The other singles also make it clear how this album was important for the band. 'The Ghost Of You' features beautifully clean and haunting verses as Way dramatically sings before the big choruses that display the refined rage and sorrow the demolition lover feels not that he is lost without his other half. The way the guitar imitates the "Never coming home, never coming home" part that still rings as powerfully as it did over a decade ago. Lead single 'I'm Not Okay (I Promise)' is a more personal track that steps away from the demolition lovers' narrative, the pop rock song tackling a very "teenage" issue: a girl who is having troubles with her boyfriend asks the narrator who is dealing with his own problems in his life, puts them aside to help her just to be ignored. The girl loves all these "deep" songs but can't see the real problems of life, as the narrator tries to explain. The true alternative rock vibe of the song was enough to burst that era into a new frontier.

On a heavier ground, 'Thank You For The Venom' was the single that showed that My Chemical Romance still had the capability to produce great, heavy tracks with a rebellious statement. The thick guitar riffs (including the one in the intro) give the song an extra thickness that the rest of the album doesn't have. It discusses fear and helplessness, as well as sending a blasting messages to record labels who don't understand that the bands want to be part of their fans, too.

It's not all black and white on this record, though. There's some moments that stand out more than others. 'You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison' starts off groovy that ends wild and rambunctiously has interesting artistic choices (especially in the second verse) and features lots of cool little moments and elements that make it unique. There's a Western-vibe to 'Hang 'Em High', likely inspired by Way's enticement with Clint Eastwood (since this song shares a title with one of his movies). The western intro is followed by thrashing guitars and drums that ultimately come together throughout the rest of the song leading to a cluster of noise in the end. It preaches that you should never stop fighting.

Three Cheers doesn't shy away from more personal and intense topics, however. A "jetset" is a lifestyle that is defined by frequent traveling and drug use. This is exactly what Gerard Way struggled with whilst touring, almost dying in Japan in 2004. This experience and coming clean led to 'The Jetset Life Is Gonna Kill You', a song that really speaks for itself once you understand the story. The rock vibe of the instrumental that sounds similar to a Weezer track acts as a support for the message and the big vocals. On another note is 'Cemetery Drive', the light melody and vibe shadowing the meaning: coping with life after a loved one commits suicide. The instrumental is great and really supports the track's lost demeanor, the chorus beautifully yet simply doing the same with its chants of "I miss you, I miss you so far / And the collision of your kiss that made it so hard."

It all comes back to the narrative of I Brought You My Bullets. Lots of tracks have references to the story: the loss of a loved one in 'Helena', the convict that is coping with failing mental health in 'You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison', and the living lover being unaware of the deal the dead one made with the devil in 'Give 'Em Hell, Kid'. The only song that fully delves into the story is closing track 'I Never Told You What I Do For A Living'. The song combines the best of the elements of I Brought You My Bullets and Three Cheers: the complex structure and the convicted vocals of Bullets paired with the power of the vocals and production style of Three Cheers makes this song a true monster.

Filled to the brim with sweet melodies, big moments, and epic screams, the song exhibits the raw emotions of the demolition lovers as the main character fulfills his deal with the devil: killing a thousand evil souls so that he can once again see his lover. The lyrics deal with how the murders slowly become justified in the name of love, the narrator asking his lover to free him from the burden. The devil tricks him, in the end: the last soul he must kill is himself, expressed in the lyrics "Down / And down we go / And we all fall down" sung in a growing rage that builds to a vicious scream, ending in the heartbreaking yet simple screams of "I tried". The beautiful clean chorus defeatedly cries "And never again / And never again / They gave us two shots to the back of the head / And we're all dead now." The lines repeat with more energy until its last repetition, sounding more like dying words than a proclamation of victory. Whether or not he gets to see his lover again is up to interpretation, but the beautiful story comes to an end here.

My Chemical Romance's romanticization of death becomes clear in this album and continues under a different light in the one that follows. Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge ends the tragic tale of the demolition lovers in a burning and vivid conclusion. I personally like to believe they did see each other again, but the devil brought them both back to hell - the last words of the album ending with a bittersweet apology to her, but a gratefulness amongst them both that they are united once again. That's the beauty of this band - they can tell a vivid story with no clear ending but still have it be a masterpiece. Three Cheers was the start of their sound's evolution and a solidification of their songwriting ability, and all of that only improved as they progressed, and we all know where they went from there.

Favorite Tracks: I Never Told You What I Do For A Living, The Ghost Of You, Helena

Least Favorite Track: Interlude

Rating: 91 / 100

Sum 41 - 13 Voices

Sum 41 were a major part of the pop punk movement of the 2000s. Their edge was boosted by high energy riffs and thoughtful - or sometimes rebellious - lyrics. The band's fate was uncertain following 2013, but their comeback album is here in 2016: 13 Voices.

Perhaps taking time off was a good move, because Sum 41 sounds at the top of their game on the new record. The record feels fresh and new, not quite a reinvention but rather a personal rediscovery. Their purpose is clearer on 13 Voices. Their previous five albums made their statement, but not quite as concisely or effectively as this sixth effort.

You know things aren't quite the same right from the intro. Half of the first track 'A Murder Of Crows' is an epic buildup of electronics and strings, and epic orchestra soon backed by thick, brooding guitars before the meat of the song comes in with the same awesome demeanor, gritty vocals paired with sweet melodies to create an electric atmosphere. Just the mere inclusion of strings is enough to give the band some creative credit here. They return in the intro of 'Breaking The Chain', as well, but don't swell in a cinematic way like the former track. Instead, it's a calmer, more progressive build up from the pretty strings to big guitars.

Their pop punk revolution isn't to be ignored. With acts like Moose Blood on the rise (see our review of their album here), pop punk just may be on the brink of revival. Lead single 'Fake My Own Death' saw the band not being afraid to veer away from the signature sound of the genre. It's a standard song, granted, but its guitar work solidifies it as a solid song for pop punk. 'Goddamn I'm Dead Again' does it better, the clapping leading into thick riffs and pounding drums. The song borders punk and alternative metal in a sort of odd dance, the beat and drive obviously punk with a Green Day influence, but there are some killer, dark guitar solos on it that deviate from the standard.

13 Voices has some evil in it, too. Sometimes it works, and sometimes... well, it kind of sounds like My Chemical Romance. The title track '13 Voices' is essentially an MCR ripoff, right down to the vocal delivery. It's a bit sad considering the song had lots of potential, but just feels ripped out of The Black Parade's playbook. Closing track 'Twisted By Design' also has a My Chem vibe, but in a much more natural way that works in the world of Sum 41. The piano intro is followed by dramatic, empowering vocals as the song slowly builds into a driven, thoughtful ending to the record with fantastic melodies. A perfect ending to the record. 'There Will Be Blood' is another song with a brooding, industrial vibe to it, particularly in the slamming delivery of "We'll take the souls of the little ones / And that might be you" in the choruses.

Through the uncertainty, Sum 41 made it through with flying colors. 13 Voices is the start of something big: a new future for the band. A fresh and imaginative sound is here for the Canadian outfit, and they couldn't get off on a better footing with this comeback album. Here's to a new future.

Favorite Tracks: Twisted By Design, A Murder Of Crows, There Will Be Blood

Least Favorite Track: 13 Voices

Rating: 82 / 100

My Chemical Romance - I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love

Roughly ten years ago, one of the biggest bands in the history of music released one of the most influential albums in the history of rock. But before that, they had to begin somewhere. It has been a decade since My Chemical Romance released The Black Parade, but besides a select few songs, the songs preceding that album aren't as well acclaimed.

That being said, it's not hard to see why that's the case for the band's 2002 debut, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love. The album is a tragic cross between edginess and some good ideas, but neither points are actually achieved throughout the record, making the album almost widely forgettable until you look at its purpose.

Musically, there really isn't much going on that's special. There's a lot of uncertainty in the album, and its evident through the sound. The album's rawness plays into that. Unlike future MCR albums to come, I Brought You Bullets misses the grandiose of its successors and focuses more on the "emotion-through-tone" aspect. The instrumentals are often times brooding and fast-moving without much work done on them to clean up. The work isn't sloppy, but it's definitely not tight, either.

The first examples of rawness are in 'Vampires Will Never Hurt You', the big drive and solid guitar work feels wholly unpolished but still fits the context of the song with its edgy, throaty screaming from Gerard Way in front. 'Vampires' is almost like a precursor; it has traces of that signature creepiness that always gave MCR's music very Tim Burton-esque. The edgy textures follow through in 'Drowning Lessons', focussing more prominently on melodic guitars while still maintaining the off-kilter vibe.

The album isn't pigeonholed into one type of sound. That's a big thing for a debut, especially of its time. There's the lo-fi Spanish acoustic intro of 'Romance', which is almost misleading of the album but carries the sentiment expressed within it. 'Our Lady Of Sorrow' can be most easily described as a form of "dance metal," the guitars interesting and heavy with a driven beat that has a slight groove to it. If Gerard wasn't screaming like a dying frog, this song could've been something really interesting. The entire sound of the album is contrasted by 'Early Sunsets Over Monroeville', the bright, cheerful guitar shining above Way's flowing melody. The song is somber yet clean. The album's closure 'Demolition Lovers' - the subjects of the accepted headcanon of the story, discussed later on - is a longer song, starting quietly and with a defeated vibe before building into one final burst of energy and anger to close the album. There's different parts and levels to the song that give it some character, giving the album a fresh ending.

I Brought You My Bullets takes on a different dimension if you take the story into account. The story, while unofficial, turns the album into a concept album. A simple yet effective tale, the album tells the story of two lovers running from an enemy before ultimately being gunned down in the desert. The story is picked up in the band's sophomore album, but I Brought You My Bullets ends in defeat. His girlfriend dead, descending to Hell and he being trapped in purgatory, it's a tragic ending to a thrilling story put to bad screams and volatile instrumentals.

The theme of love and chasing it, or in some cases destroying it, is definitely present throughout the record. The story starts with the character acknowledging in a selfish manner that the relationship will only fail in 'Honey, This Mirror Isn't Big Enough For The Two Of Us', the chorus clearly stating "And you can cry all you want to / I don't care how much / You'll invest yourself in me / We're not working out." The Black Parade explored the acceptance of death, while the band's first two explore immortality. This becomes more evident in Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, but the lead up is in I Brought You My Bullets. Undying creatures such as vampires and causes of death including drowning are evidence of the exploration of death, how to escape it, and what it means.

Some songs don't fully play to that concept, though. Particularly, there's 'Skylines and Turnstiles', the song that is set off My Chemical Romance. Inspired by Gerard's witnessing of the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center terrorist attacks. The lyrics discuss whether or not forgiveness can be sought out, and whether or not there is hope for justice. Way shows that there is unity amongst the people, that no one is alone, but can't beg but ask whether or not there is hope to be found, the chorus pleading "This broken city sky, like butane on my skin stolen from my eyes / Hello, Angel tell me, where are you? Tell me where we go from here."

My Chemical Romance's beginnings may not have been perfect, but they stood as precursors to what was ahead. I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love is a confused record, but its struggle with identity birthed something unique, unbeknownst, at the time, to both the band and listeners. It's a hit or miss record, unfortunately, but its importance cannot be ignored.

Favorite Tracks: Vampires Will Never Hurt You; Demolition Lovers; Honey, This Mirror Isn't Big Enough For The Two Of Us

Least Favorite Tracks: This Is The Best Day Ever, Cubicles

Rating: 68 / 100

We're reviewing My Chemical Romance's discography this month - check in next Thursday for our review on Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge!

My Chemical Romance - Living With Ghosts

The legacy continues. My Chemical Romance's critically acclaimed The Black Parade celebrates its ten year anniversary next month, and ahead of it's release, the band has rereleased the album on vinyl, along with a second disk entitled Living With Ghosts, featuring a load of demos and rough mixes.

We'll skip ahead to the demos - our thoughts on The Black Parade will be coming next month. There a number of songs on that album in which their demo form appear on Living With Ghosts. The most notable is the first demo on the record, 'The Five Of Us Are Dying'. At first unrecognizable, when the guitars and verse kick in, you realize you're listening to one of the first versions of 'Welcome To The Black Parade'. Starkly different from the original, the song's signatures and iconic parts are all missing. The only parts that are truly similar are the verses - even the guitars in the choruses are different! It shares a guitar solo, albeit a different take that's pretty cool to listen to. You can hear the uncertainty in the vocals, as if Gerard Way wasn't actually certain that the song was ready yet. The potential was soon to be discovered. While it's the demo of 'Welcome', the ending also bares some similarities to the intro of 'Cancer'.

Two versions of 'House Of Wolves' can be found on the record, too. Both live mixes, the first version that appears is extremely different from the album version. It begins dramatically with a guitar line and an urgent but subtle drum line before bursting into powerchords and crash cymbals. This version lacks cohesion, but it's interesting to hear what the song was originally. The second version is more akin to the version we're all familiar with, in a rawer and less-complete fashion. 'Disenchanted' appears near the end of the tracklist, beginning with an electric guitar and Way assuring his bandmates that he knows the lyrics, unlike the acoustic beginnings of the album track. There are some mistakes throughout, particularly in the second guitar, but, again, it's cool to listen to.

A live demo of 'Mama' has, in a way, more silliness to it than the album version with Gerard singing out of time without any regard for staying on beat, and some rocking pinch harmonics in the heavy choruses. Bonus tracks 'Kill All Your Friends' and 'My Way Home Is Through You' are also featured as live demos, the rawness contrasting the restrained sound on the album versions.  

There are a handful of never-before heard demos, too, and some of them are quite interesting. The first is 'Party At The End Of The World', a demanding track that makes you wonder what it would sound like if it was probably mixed and mastered. 'Not That Kind Of Girl' is another interesting one, with a confusing perspective. Way sings in the chorus, "So say goodbye to all my friends / I fell in love with her again / My baby / Cause I'm not that kind of girl," which begs to ask: is Gerard singing from the perspective of himself, or the girl? Is the narrator a girl? These are things we'd know better if the songs were properly mixed and, you know, finished.

The two most interesting songs on the record are ones we haven't heard before. The first is 'Emily'. The demo, branded a "Rough Mix," starts with a pretty complex drum beat before Gerard Way sings hauntingly above light guitars. The choruses are powerful, but there are some really well thought out instrumental melodies on this song. The fact that it was mixed means this song was pretty deep into the process of making it onto the record - it definitely feels like it fits right into the tracklist. It builds powerfully to the end, seeing a heavier and heavier progression as it concludes.

The closing track 'All The Angels' is another very interesting demo. The guitar arpeggios are creepy with a Western tinge as Way sings in a tortured fashion as the song slowly builds, a kick drum carrying the beat as the first chorus kicks in, as Gerard Way croons "And all the angels say / Ooh, ooh / You are all to blame" in a very reprimanding fashion. The Black Parade was an ode to death, but it never seemed to assign blame. Perhaps that's why 'All The Angels' didn't make it onto the record; it's message is that everyone around the protagonist is to blame for his death. It's tone would fit right in place at the end of the record, maybe as a retrospective ending. 'Famous Last Words' did a perfect job at closing the album out, though, so perhaps it's best to leave that alone. 'All The Angels' definitely would've found home on The Black Parade comfortably, its creepy, defeated vibe adding a lot to the message of death.

The Black Parade was an iconic album, yet even the most famous songs had to have started somewhere. Living With Ghosts shows off the humble beginnings of some of the album's dearest tracks, as well as introducing fans to some songs that never quite made the limelight. After ten years of growing with these songs, we can finally see how they started to grow. My Chemical Romance may not be together anymore, but their legacy won't die any time soon.

Favorite Tracks: All The Angels, Emily

Least Favorite Tracks: My Way Home Is Through You, The Five Of Us Are Dying

Rating: 70 / 100