My Chemical Romance’s rise to fame has been anything but typical. It is true that like many bands, MCR released an innovative album – “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge” – that firmly established their place in the alternative scene, which they followed with relentless touring throughout 2004 and 2005.

Like its predecessor, 2002’s “I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love,” the darkness of “Three Cheers” went beyond the lyrical references to vampires, murder and ill-fated lovers. Lines like “So give me all your poison/And give me all your pills/And give me all your hopeless hearts/And make me ill” from “Thank You For the Venom” pointed to a conflicted soul behind the pen – that of frontman Gerard Way.

Grappling with demons long before the stresses of global fame entered the picture, Way constructed an album about the darker, internal struggles faced in life and death. He was reaching the peak of his substance abuse as the band toured in support of their sophomore album, putting a great deal of strain on his relationships with his bandmates. Meanwhile, guitarists Frank Iero, Ray Toro, bassist and Way’s younger brother, Mikey, were dissatisfied with the level of performance and commitment of original drummer Matt Pelisser. As the band rose to fame, they were falling apart.

After some serious interventions, Way cleaned up, Pelisser was asked to leave the band and Bob Bryar took his place behind the drum kit. “Three Cheers” preceded the band’s major conflicts, and, in many ways, its growing success aggravated the preexisting tensions. But the time MCR spent on the road, opening for acts like Green Day and soon headlining Taste of Chaos and the Vans Warped Tour, gave Way ample time to grapple with his demons.

“The Black Parade,” MCR’s third studio album, shows that Way emerged victorious from the struggle. Although themes of death and the undead remain at the core of the album, the overall sound of the songs is significantly more upbeat and triumphant than were their previous releases. The band’s musical influences shine through in “The Black Parade,” particularly late 70s and 80s glam rockers Queen and David Bowie. The opening track, “The End,” is almost a carbon copy of “Five Years,” the intro to Bowie’s 1972 concept album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.” MCR even use the same chords in their shorter, less orchestral rendition. There is also a highly unexpected similarity between the guitar intros to “I Don’t Love You” and Coldplay’s “Yellow.” Some of the elements that made “Three Cheers” really stand out are noticeably lacking on “The Black Parade.” Toro’s virtuosic and Queen-influenced solos are fewer and less pronounced, and, while Bryar’s drums provide a solid beat they fall short of the pummeling force that Pelisser supplied.

But it’s Way’s lyrics that rescue the album from its musical shortcomings. Centering the album on the story of a dying patient, Way’s story-telling this time around follows less of a strict narrative and takes on a more poetic flow. After welcoming the listener to “this tragic affair” comes the already deceased patient’s realization of his premature death. Armed with an endless supply of dark imagery and biting sarcasm, the album explores various types of isolation. The glam rock of “Teenagers” calls out to the social outcast; tracks like “I Don’t Love You” and “This Is How I Disappear” address various separations from love. The remainder of the songs, especially “Cancer,” “Mama” and “Welcome To the Black Parade,” focus on arguably the most painful separation of all – death.

Way and the rest of MCR fought difficult internal and personal battles as the morbid themes of death, murder and vampires of” Three Cheers” was exposed to the light of day. They fought their way out of the underground and up to the top, and with “The Black Parade” it seems that MCR is bound and determined to stay there as they all sing on “Welcome to the Black Parade,” “Go and try, you’ll never break me/ We want it all, we wanna play this part.” And if there is any truth in these words, trust that MRC will remain the “savior of the broken, the beaten and the damned” as they lead on their conquered demons in the Black Parade.

Swain is a member of the class of 2008.



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