Few bands hold such a vice grip on the subculture they helped cultivate like My Chemical Romance. Perhaps it’s the influence of comic books and horror movies on their sound and image, or the distinct, genuine personalities of the four longstanding members. Whatever it is, My Chemical Romance are undoubtedly one of the greatest and most influential bands of their generation, inspiring those who never quite fit in to grab that part of themselves and hold it up high.
October 2021 marks the fifteenth anniversary of their most successful and arguably most influential album The Black Parade, which in turn marked a new level of sophistication and theatre to their previously punkier sound. With the macabre turned up to eleven, The Black Parade listens like the combination of a Homeric epic and a gothic opera, with influences, such as Queen, David Bowie and Iron Maiden, taking a front seat to the prominence of punk outfits, the Misfits and Black flag, in their previous two albums. It maintains a sinister yet dramatic tone throughout, ranging from maximum drama (Sleep, Famous Last Words, I Don’t Love You) to faster-paced songs with a sound more reminiscent of the band’s second album, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (Dead, House of Wolves).
The Black Parade also displayed the bands bleakest lyrics yet, with songs such as This is How I disappear describing an inability to live without the one you love and the fear of becoming a recluse that results. Cancer, a song that has since been covered by Twenty One Pilots, discusses the trauma of illness and the fear of losing those you love in death. As a result, the band retained the crown of “emo” placed upon them by fans and critics, appealing to those who enjoy rock music that isn’t afraid to hit personal nerves whilst exploring the darker and more horrific sides of our world.
That being said, The Black Parade did not only gain critical acclaim from its brilliant storytelling, but also from the ultimately positive messages that cut through the bleakness that fills up a vast amount of the record. It’s these lyrics – “I am not afraid to keep on living, I am not afraid to walk this world alone…” and “We’ll carry on” from Famous Last Words and Welcome to the Black Parade respectively – which resonated with fans most, adorning t-shirts and even people’s bodies, branded as a constant reminder that this band believes in you to push through the darkness, unafraid to carry on.
My Chemical Romance’s third album tackles death and grief and love with tenderness and precision filtered through a glam-rock lens, creating a dialectic between optimism and pessimism which has comforted fans far and wide for the last fifteen years. Their following projects, the Conventional Weapons pentalogy and Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, stray from the previous themes of death whilst maintaining the theatrics. The latter takes it’s concept from singer Gerard Way’s comic book series, combining the strut of 80s rock with elements of synth-pop, creating a campy sci-fi album that packed a punch.
Three years after Danger Days, and much to everyone’s surprise, My Chemical Romance announced their disbandment in March 2013. Following multiple world-tours in front of an international fanbase, the band went their separate ways. As a teenager, I grew comfortable with the idea that I would never see one of my favourite bands live, and I was resentful that being a teenager in the 2010s, rather than the 2000s, denied me that chance. That was until late 2019, when a reunion tour was announced, reigniting the fishnet-clad teen misfit in those in their early 20s, who had previously come to grips with the non-existence of their youth-defining favourites. All of a sudden, the reality of being able to experience moments like this for fans who were slightly to young came into the fore. Tickets were impossible to get, and the tour, set for 2020, has since been postponed twice because of covid.
In spite of this, fans just seem to be excited to have one of their favourite bands back. Although the atmosphere created on The Black Parade is Dead tour will never be matched, the feeling of being in a My Chemical Romance crowd is likely to mean the world to fans old and new. The songs most beloved from The Black Parade will be sung by thousands of people, unified by those songs and those who sing them once more. The career-shifting album may be fifteen years old, and it may be sixteen years after its release until fans can see it live, but for music that means this much, it will undoubtedly be worth the wait.
Image courtesy of Hosein Zanbori