Beyond The Black Parade: Part 2

Lukas Luna, Co-Copy Editor

With the release of 2004’s Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, My Chemical Romance established themselves as storytellers with a strong concept album under their belt. While Three Cheers was certainly an ambitious project, it pales into comparison to what the group would try next. 


For most bands, a concept album is often just a singular highlight in their discography. They told one story on one album and that’s it. My Chemical Romance opted for something different. 


Rather than let their sophomore album stand as a singular piece of storytelling in their career, the New Jersey band made it their mission to continue the story of that album across the rest of their career. Nowhere is their devotion to telling a singular story more apparent than on their now iconic album, 2006’s The Black Parade 


The supremely ambitious narrative of The Black Parade kicks off with the back-to-back combination of The End and Dead. The first track introduces the audience to our main character, known only as “The Patient,” a bedridden hospital patient who invites all to come and wallow in his misery. As The End bleeds into Dead, our lead discovers he is stricken with terminal cancer and has only two weeks left to live. 


The Patient spends the next two tracks bemoaning his lack of visitors and lamenting a lost love.  Through these songs, we begin to see hints of a checkered past. It’s implied that things ended with the women he loved because she was tired of having to clean up his messes and hearing him swear he’d do better this time.  


The album’s narrative begins to take a turn for the surreal in its next song, the 2000’s rock anthem that is Welcome To The Black Parade. In it, the physical embodiment of death comes to tempt The Patient. In the form of a marching band he vividly remembers his father taking him to see, it asks him why he should care about anyone else’s feelings about his potential death if they never liked him anyway. It further tempts him with the prospect of leaving a legacy as a man with conviction, who lived life his own way with no care for what others thought of him. As the titular Black Parade continues making their plea for him to accept death’s embrace, The Patient can’t help but notice how nice it sounds.   


After a brief detour to the past in which we see the messy end of our lead’s previous relationship in I Don’t Love You, The story whips back to the present on the rollicking  House Of Wolves. In the track, The Patient gets his first visitor since he discovered his significantly shortened life span. However, instead of welcoming the benevolence of a man coming with his condolences, his visit from the Black Parade prompts him to kick the visitor out on the basis of their past disputes. 


Soon, treatment begins to take its toll on the patient, as we see in the song Cancer. Chemotherapy has left him beaten down and his impending mortality has him more terrified than ever before. In his weakened emotional state, he becomes increasingly existential. Lamenting the horrible acts he committed as a soldier in Mama and coveting the comfort of defeat in Sleep


The Patient’s journey seemingly comes to an end on Disenchanted. Ironically, it seems that the Black Parade’s promise of comfort in death didn’t defeat him, but the perceived meaninglessness of his own existence. He calls his life “a lifelong visit for a hospital stay” and convinces himself that we will all end up at the same miserable end, so he might as well get it over with now. 


Broken and defeated, The Patient finds himself before the Black Parade, just barely hanging onto life at the beginning of album closer Famous Last Words. Death offers it’s outstretched hand to take him away from a life that has only ever given him misery and our main character is all too eager to accept. Before he can leave it all behind, however, he gets a visitor. He does not even bother with telling them off like the last one, as he barely has any strength left. But as they get closer, The Patient realizes that his visitor is none other than the love he seemingly forsaked what now seems so long ago. 


Seeing her sit by his deathbed gives our lead a renewed sense of hope, as he is able to look upon human benevolence for the first time with unclouded sense since his diagnosis. And he is only pulled further out of the dark as she begins to speak, saying that she still has faith in his ability to persevere, even after all he’s been through. With this, our hero rises up and defiantly rejects death, triumphantly bellowing “I am not afraid to keep on living”. While The Patient’s ultimate fate is left ambiguous, we know for a fact he regained his will to live, which in the end was the only victory that really mattered. 


While initially, the story of this album can seem quite divorced from Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, the set up of the two releases mirror each other quite closely. On both, we follow a protagonist with a number of apparent character flaws as they go on a journey closely tied with death (whether they are dealing it out indiscriminately or succumbing to it themselves).     


Ironically, the most important connection these two albums share are their differences. While the protagonist of Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge is left to anguish alone in Hell for his deplorable actions, The Patient’s past good deeds and perseverance are rewarded by survival (such a fate is confirmed in a hidden track). 


These two albums perfectly encompass the message My Chemical Romance proudly held up throughout most of their career: there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Through the stunning use of narrative and character, these storytellers told their fans that they were never totally defeated and it was never too late to realize that. 

And with that, the story seemingly comes to an end. However, My Chemical Romance still had one last trick up their sleeves…