Review Summary: This album is an incredibly solid effort with very few pitfalls, and perhaps it will be acknowledged as such once people start paying attention to the music rather than the media.
The most fashionable thing to do nowadays is to criticize My Chemical Romance. "Oh, they're so emo!", "they look ridiculous", "Gerard Way is too much of a show boat!" "LOL SELLOUTZ!"...Well, you get the idea. Just when it seemed the well had run completely dry, The Black Parade was released in all of its marvel and glory. It had scarcely been out for a week before the new wave of whiny gripes came out. Between "they're just ripping off Queen" and "they don't sound like they used to", I don't know which complaint to find more laughable.
I'll begin with the obvious, I suppose. Of COURSE they don't sound like they used to. As much as I enjoyed their previous studio album (3 Cheers for Sweet Revenge), I wasn't holding out for 3 years to get the damn thing again. If you are expecting anything you've heard from them before, I can almost guarantee nothing but disappointment. With regards to the other complaint (regarding ripping off Queen), I think it is important to draw some kind of distinction between "ripping off" and "being influenced by." Nowhere on the album do I hear the catchy shout along hooks found in songs like "We Will Rock You" or "We Are The Champions." I also fail to see any kind of major pop melody structures (a la "Killer Queen" or "Under Pressure") pervasive throughout any of the songs. In fact, all of the songs seem to have a very minor tone to them. Maybe if everyone in Queen was on a permanent bad acid trip, they could come up with songs like those on this album. As it stands, in spite of the fact that many of the tracks have a pop-like feel to them, the darker style and overall content remains very MCR.
The album chronicles the last days of a terminal cancer patient as he is visited by a host of strange apparitions (known as the black parade) and recounts the emotions of his life. The album begins very true to MCR form with a somewhat laid back intro beginning somewhat ironically with "The End", but the next track ("Dead!") kicks quite a shock into the listener with an incredibly driving beat and nonstop action from all of the musicians involved. It is apparent by this point that this is no longer the MCR that ascended from mediocrity 3 years ago. The instrumentation throughout the majority of the album is far superior to anything they've done before in terms of complexity (most notably in a series of rather out of the blue solos in "Dead!"). Where the album maintains the general feel of the group is, as per usual, in the vocal lines. Gerard Way has not in any sense lost his flair for the dramatic and it shows through in his energy on all of the tracks.
This isn't to say that the album is without problems entirely. While songs such as "Dead!", "The Sharpest Lives", and "House of Wolves" keep the musical energy alive and kicking with their constantly up tempo riffs and catchy as hell choruses, the ballads interspersed throughout the album become rather bland and generic. Anybody looking for a piece of "3 Cheers..." will find it in these tracks, which all bear a striking resemblance to "The Ghost of You", quite possibly the weakest song on their previous effort. They're not all bad, but definitely feel more like a regression while the rest of the album shows definite progression.
Even with the weakness of their slower tracks, this album demonstrates some definite overall growth for MCR, clinging on only to the comfort blanket of their ballad style and structure. I would still definitely give this album my endorsement, provided you can get over the stigma and negative hype.