If I told you that The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance turns 15 years old today, I doubt you’d believe me, because it feels like our emo phases were only yesterday. But it’s true; the album was released on October 23rd 2006, exactly 15 years ago. It took very little persuasion to get Gemma Cockrell to revisit the album, which has been deemed by many as the most classic and iconic ‘emo’ album of all time.
It makes the most sense to begin by talking about Welcome to the Black Parade, the title track of the album and the My Chemical Romance song with the most streams of all time. The song is a huge moment in the band’s career; a soaring, larger-than-life track that haunts everyone who ever lived through an emo phase with its iconic opening G note. The track builds up gradually from that singular piano note into a theatrical, show-stopping crescendo, mirroring the moment in a musical mere seconds before the curtains drop. The only other My Chemical Romance song which is perhaps as popular or well-known is Teenagers, which only just narrowly falls behind Welcome to the Black Parade in terms of streaming numbers on Spotify. It’s the true anthem for rebellion, with a chanted chorus sung by what sounds like a crowd of angsty teens. No wonder it became one of the defining songs of the emo movement.
"The Black Parade is a concept album"
At its core, The Black Parade is a concept album (as all My Chemical Romance albums are). The story behind the album follows the death of a fictional character known by fans as The Patient, who is suffering from terminal illness. When he dies (which actually occurs in the album’s opening track The End.), death meets him as The Black Parade. This was inspired by vocalist Gerard Way’s belief that upon death, you are met by the fondest memory from your life, and here, The Patient is met by the memory of a parade that he was taken to as a child by his father. This story gives rise to some more emotional and reflective moments on the album: Dead! is the moment where The Patient finds out he has just two weeks to live, and Cancer reveals The Patient’s exact cause of death in what the band have described as “the darkest song ever” – and they may be right. A true tear-jerker, it will catch you off guard whenever you listen to it.
Two of my favourite tracks from the album come right at the very end of the standard version, in the form of Disenchanted and Famous Last Words. They have very contrasting meanings, with Disenchanted reflecting on the meaningless nature of life, before Famous Last Words closes the album on a rare moment of hope and perseverance. This ambiguity contributes to the story becoming slightly muddled and difficult to follow in areas, something which can also be seen on earlier moments in the album - the heart wrenching I Don’t Love You doesn't seem to fit too neatly into the overarching ideas of the album, being described simply as The Patient looking back at a failed relationship from earlier in their life, and the aforementioned Teenagers doesn't actually fit the narrative at all. But thankfully, the album doesn’t rely entirely on its storyline. Instead, the story simply provides an extra layer of emotion to the lyrics, enhancing them for those who are invested in the concept.
"The album as a whole went well beyond anything they had achieved at that point in their career, as well as going beyond what any band within the ‘emo’ bracket was releasing at that time"
What the album does rely on, however, is the music, which it can very much afford to do – because the music is excellent. NME described it as “rock opera” in their original review, and I honestly can’t think of any way to put it better myself. I mentioned Welcome to the Black Parade as a show-stopper, but the truth is, the album is scattered with moments that are just as melodramatic and monumental. The album as a whole went far beyond anything that the band had achieved at that point in their career, as well as going beyond what any band within the ‘emo’ bracket was releasing at that time. The Patient may have died, but this album never will. “Your memory will carry on,” The Black Parade, just as it has done for the past 15 years.
Written by: Gemma Cockrell
Edited by: Gemma Cockrell
In-article image courtesy of Kerrang! via Twitter.