Review Summary: It’s not the best album ever, but in my opinion it’s one of the best rock albums made in the last few years, and if you like anything from Fall Out Boy to Pink Floyd I would suggest you give it a listen.
I want to start by saying that My Chemical Romance is my favourite band, and The Black Parade is my favourite album, so I'm sorry if this review seems kinda biased or one-sided to anyone. I'm also not extremely familiar with Pink Floyd and Queen (Well, I wasn't alive when they were big), who are meant to be big influences for this. I like what I’ve heard from them, but I'm not a mad fan.
When I first heard about The Black Parade, when I heard Welcome to the Black Parade, to me it was just another punk band, and I didn't take much notice of them until I heard Famous Last Words. That was the song made me go out and get the album (Not that Welcome isn’t a good song though; it’s awesome).
Little did I know, The Black Parade is actually a great concept album about a character known as The Patient who remembers things about his life as he dies of an illness. It's not just 'some emo band' playing vaguely meaningful songs about suicide or something depressing, as some people would assume.
The Black Parade starts out with The End, and the typical sounds of a hospital, that quickly fade into Gerard Way's opening words, 'Now come one, come all to this tragic affair...’ sung along to piano and acoustic guitar. The 'heavy' guitar sections kick in, sounding a little like Queen, and do well in turning a small sound into something big and important. The song is quite important for the album's storyline, The End probably meaning the end of the Patient's life.
The End slips into the intro of track 2, Dead!. The opening riff is played alongside the sound of a heart monitor going flat line, just to give you an idea of the song in case the title wasn't obvious enough. The song is extremely guitar-focussed; even the intro is pretty much a guitar solo. It's also very up-front in it's meaning, with Gerard Way seeming to shout 'dead' whenever he gets a spare space. Overall, Dead! is a good song - even though death is quite a serious subject, the song is really catchy and cheery.
The next song is This Is How I Disappear. This song had me hooked in the first few seconds, beginning with Bob Bryar's awesome drums and the atmospheric guitars of Ray Toro and Frank Iero. The song is already dark in the first verse, with lyrics like 'By street light, this dark night, a séance down below' and the choruses are no different. In the second verse guitars and drums continue to be great, but after the second chorus is where this song gets pretty amazing.
Way starts off singing lightly and with a high-pitch, 'Can you hear me cry out to you?' before going to a lower, angry voice that combines perfectly with the guitars, and then wailing 'So, you can, I'm so far away from you!' This is one of my favourite parts in the whole album; the emotion of the song is conveyed through Way's great voice and long note-holding, which contrasts with the extremely fast guitars.
This Is How I Disappear is one of my favourite songs on the album, and in my opinion it is musically one of the best. That's not to say the lyrics aren't any good though.
The Sharpest Lives keeps a similar tone to This Is How I Disappear - it's quite dark, and also a little more like some of the songs you’d find on Three Cheers, MCR’s previous studio album. This song creates some great effects with more and louder backing vocals than usual.
I’m not entirely sure of the meaning of this, but it seems to be about partying with the band (presumably The Black Parade) and taking drugs (with bad outcomes), from what it hints in lyrics like: ‘If I crash on the couch can I sleep in my clothes’, ‘You can watch me corrode like a beast in repose, cos I love all the poison, away with the boys in the band’, ‘Gimme a shot to remember, and you can take all the pain away from me’. You get the idea. On the whole, The Sharpest Lives is a pretty good song; It’s a little tedious, but still definitely not one to ignore.
The fifth song and first single on this album, Welcome to the Black Parade, is easily one of the best. It begins very simply, with just a piano and Way’s voice, but within a minute it builds into a massive sound, with Queen-style guitars and awesome, marching band drums. Before long, Welcome is a catchy punk song tinged with classic rock, and one of MCR’s most memorable songs.
The band has obviously put a great deal of effort into this song; Way shows that he can write fine songs when he wants to, Toro and Iero master the lead guitars for a good five minutes, Gerard Way’s brother Mikey plays awesome bass, and Bryar is fantastic on the drums.
I Don’t Love You is already a good ballad ten seconds in, and stays that way for another four minutes. The intro sets up the song perfectly, and when Gerard Way starts singing, you know this is going to be a good one. He conveys the sadness in the song flawlessly, and this song has some of the best moments on the album, musically. The guitars are great and the bass is good but inaudible in some parts. The drums are great, but don’t really do anything except hold the song loosely together and they don’t really show off Bryar’s style until the last quarter of the song.
I Don’t Love You is one of favourite songs on the album, and MCR’s first proper ballad.
House of Wolves begins with thumping drums and some weird guitar effects, and promptly shows off a catchy riff that is, honestly, pretty unoriginal. To me, the lyrics are quite abstract, I think they have something to do with all the bad things the Patient has done.
This is a very musical song, packed to the brim with psycho guitars and explosive drumming, and Way’s singing is catchy and aggressive.
House Of Wolves wouldn’t be in my top five on The Black Parade, but definitely proves MCR isn’t afraid to try a new style and do it well.
Cancer only has piano in the background for almost a minute, until the second verse where some drums and string instruments kick in. The lyrics aren’t amazing, but the atmosphere of the song strengthens the meaning of them, making this one to listen to carefully. I think Way may have been trying a bit too hard, and made a song that is almost a completely different genre than usual, but it worked, and it came out well.
You can hear bombs dropping in the background for the about the first twenty seconds of Mama, to set the scene. This is about the war that The Black Parade is set around, and plays a big part in the album’s storyline (‘Mama’ is short for a character in The Black Parade called Mother War). Although the lyrics are great, they are fairly blunt, with the first, second, and fourth lines in the song being ‘Mama, we all go to hell.’
Mama has a great, high-quality epic feel to it, and it just feels like lots of effort and time was put into it, musically and lyrically. MCR obviously used the time well, as Liza Minnelli cameos towards the end of the song, playing the part of Mother War. Way and Minnelli’s characters seem to have a conversation that contains one of my favourite lyrics on the album: ‘And if you would call me your sweetheart, I’d maybe then sing you a song’, Minnelli sings feebly, before Way answers with, ‘But there’s sh*t that I’ve done with this f*ck of a gun, you would cry out your eyes all along!’
Sleep begins with piano and tinny voices, which I’m sure have something to do with the storyline, before blasting you with the noise of what sounds like fifty guitars…but is actually only two.
I think this song is just incredible; Gerard Way’s vocals are perfect, the guitar playing of Toro and Iero is amazing, and if you listen closely to Mikey Way’s bass playing it sounds amazing. I’d be happy to listen to just the bass without any lead guitars. And, lastly but certainly not least, the drums. This song truly displays Bryar’s awesome style and skill. If you turn the bass right up the song is very different, but just as amazing, because you can practically feel Bryar’s bass drum hammering into your chest with Mikey Way’s bass guitar throbbing along. But the most memorable part of the song (and in my opinion, maybe the whole album) is the two minute-long vocal and guitar solo. It’s so atmospheric, sometimes I only want to listen to Sleep.
The eleventh track on The Black Parade, Teenagers, completely destroys the mood of Sleep, but it’s worth it. The catchy riff sounds very much like something from the ‘70s or ‘80s, which it pretty much is. The lyrics are easy to get used to and they’re well written, and every instrument sounds good. The only instrument that isn’t recorded as well is the bass because can barely be heard, which is unfortunate because if you listen closely and turn up the bass it sounds great.
Probably the highest point of the song is the guitar solo, which is one of the best guitar solos on the album.
Disenchanted brings back the ballad-style heard on I Don't Love You, and is just as good. It starts off with a beautiful acoustic guitar intro, with Way singing calmly, before going into the first verse, full of inspired guitar riffs. The chorus is great, and the lyrics have a good meaning if you listen closely. The guitars are another high point, even though they don't sound entirely original. Bryar's drumming in this one is very similar to I Don't Love You, but with a little more variation throughout the song.
In my opinion, the song really gets good just before the three-minute mark, when it gets to the bridge. Way properly shows off his vocal talent here, and the band is at its best for the next two minutes, until the song ends. The outro is pretty much the same as the intro, with the same acoustic guitar playing the same tune.
Now to my favourite song on the album, my favourite song by MCR, and my favourite song ever. Famous Last Words. When I first heard this song on the radio, I immediately wanted to go and buy The Black Parade.
The intro is excellent. It begins with just guitar, a little bit of drums and Gerard Way’s singing, before building up to an awesome riff that sets up the first verse. The chorus is packed with every instrument, and they’re all perfectly audible and played well. The second chorus is longer, and goes into the amazing half-minute-long guitar solo. Now to one of my favourite parts of this song, the bridge. The song goes from a massive wall of noise to something quieter than the intro in a second. Soon, some beautiful organs begin playing, followed by drums similar to a marching band and haunting backing vocals. The quietness explodes back into life, and the song ends quickly.
I think the first thing I did when listening to the song off the album was restart it, to ‘live’ through it again. It’s that cool! Also, I think the drums are some of the best on the album, equally as good as or better than Welcome to the Black Parade’s.
The last song here is a hidden track called Blood. I think it’s on the album mainly for something funny, because it is pretty funny. The only real instruments in it are piano and Way singing in a funny voice and a bit of an accent. Towards the end there are some backing vocals and some strange instruments that I don’t know. The negative part is that you have to wait a minute and thirty seconds for the song to actually start. But then again, it is meant to be a ‘hidden’ track.
By the time I had finished listening to this album, My Chemical Romance was my favourite band, only equal with Linkin Park which is my favourite band as well.
By writing this review, I’m not trying to get people to buy The Black Parade, or trying to say that everyone will like it. It’s not the best album ever, but in my opinion it’s one of the best rock albums made in the last few years, and if you like anything from Fall Out Boy to Iron Maiden, I suggest you give a few songs a listen. You may change your mind about this band! (Trust me on that, my friend didn’t like MCR, he was into AC/DC and Deep Purple, until he heard Teenagers)