I am not afraid to walk this world alone.
Their music is best described as a mixture of Post-Hardcore, Pop Punk accessibility, horror punk-influenced lyrics and stylings, and a heaping dose of over-the-top theatrics and album rock storytelling straight out of the 1970s—all of this presented with the look of a Goth Rock band. They also have a notoriously bad Broken Base; enter at your own risk, but don't let that distract from the crazy-awesome music.
The band formed in New Jersey around late 2001 and released their first song, "Skylines and Turnstiles." The band has said that the theme and style of their music were initially inspired by their feelings during the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They released their debut album I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love in 2002, combining elements of Hardcore Punk, Post-Hardcore, and emo. Its lead single, "Vampires Will Never Hurt You," became a hit on college radio.
Their 2004 sophomore album Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge proved to be their breakthrough release, spurred on by the success of the singles "Helena" and "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)". It is now viewed as an essential album of the early-2000s emo scene with its theatrical sound, gothic aesthetics, and powerful mix of post-hardcore aggression and strongly crafted songs.
In 2006, drawing on their love of Pink Floyd's progressive rock and glam rock bands such as Queen and T.Rex, they combined their new influences with their old post-hardcore sound to create what is considered their defining work, entitled The Black Parade. While most popular rock bands in 2006 were focused on being raw and influenced by garage, The Black Parade was intentionally bombastic and excessive, reflecting the 70s rock bands that Gerard Way loved and the hip, indie establishment treated with disdain. Throw in its rock opera storyline of a dying cancer patient and his experiences in the afterlife, and you have a 1970s album brought to life in the twenty-first century. The album was a critical and commercial success, with several review sites and magazines placing it as one of the best albums of the decade.
Their final album, 2010's Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys divided the fanbase with its lighter sound and design, more heavily influenced by Glam Rock and Power Pop. Its sound incorporates indie rock, dance rock, pop punk, and Stooges-era garage rock. It also features a storyline, but this one is more frantic, enthusiastic, and exuberant than the morbid tragedy of the last.
(As noted before, "dividing the fanbase" is actually quite easy: Starting from their first album, fans were constantly arguing over anything from different themes/moods of the music to the color of Gerard's hair.)
The band announced that they had broken up as of March 22, 2013. Although the news proved memetically devastating to their fans, the members still remained close friends, and Gerard released singles featuring both Mikey and Ray.
In summer 2016, the band uploaded a video ending with the date of September 23 of that year, and it was also found that they had deleted the tweet announcing their breakup. The prospects of a potential reunion instantaneously set the Internet ablaze. Although the video was revealed to be promo for a 10th-anniversary reissue of The Black Parade — with the band confirming that they had no touring or reunion plans — the message that they still had a place in music was loud and clear.
The band privately got back together in 2017 and played a reunion show in Los Angeles in December 2019, with plans for a small tour (with Australian, Japanese, and New Zealand dates) and festival appearances in 2020 (later postponed to 2022 due to COVID-19). In May 2022, they released a new single entitled "The Foundations of Decay", which was their first song released since 2014.
Please don't confuse them with My Bloody Valentine, who are a British shoegazing band who have nothing to do with them, though Gerard admits they inspired the "My" in their band name. (The "Chemical Romance" part is a quote from the back of the Irvine Welsh novel, Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance).
- Gerard Way - lead singer
- Ray Toro - lead guitar, backing vocals
- Frank Iero - rhythm guitar
- Mikey Way - bass
- Matt Pelissier - drumsnote
- Bob Bryar - drumsnote
- For the last couple of years, there was no permanent drummer, going with Michael Pedicone as a touring drummer until September 2, 2011,note whose replacement was Jarrod Alexander for the remainder of the band's run.note Jarrod has since been confirmed as the drummer for the 2019 reunion shows.
- James Dewees recorded and toured as a session member for their last 2 albums before being promoted to a full time member a few months before the break up. However, James will not be returning for the reunion shows, instead being replaced by LA Session Keyboardist Jamie Muhoberac, who played on both The Black Parade and Danger Days. note
- I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love (2002)
- Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (2004)
- The Black Parade (2006)
- Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys (2010)
- Conventional Weapons (2013)
- May Death Never Stop You (2014)
- Life on the Murder Scene (2006)
- The Black Parade is Dead (2008)
Welcome to the Tropes Parade:
- Alternate Music Video: "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" has a music video made of footage from concerts and their daily lives while touring, and the other, far more well-known Real Trailer, Fake Movie music video featuring the members as misfits in high school. Only the latter has been uploaded to the official Youtube channel, though the former was aired on television too in some places.
- Ascended Extra: James Dewees, who was the band's touring keyboardist since The Black Parade era became a full-time member in 2012 . . . And then the band split up a year later. His only appearance as a member is their final single, "Fake Your Death".
- Attractive Zombie: The music video "Helena" has a beautiful zombie girl dancing in her own funeral.
- Auto-Tune: In the bridge of "The Jetset Life Is Gonna Kill You". Also used much more subtly in "Cancer".
- Blood-Splattered Wedding Dress: The covers of Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge and Life on the Murder Scene. It's a lot easier to tell that it's a wedding dress on the latter.
- The Album Single version of "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" changes the line "I'm not o-fucking-kay" to "I'm really not okay".
- Their second album, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, features a song which is titled "It's Not a Fashion Statement, It's a Deathwish" on the back cover, but "It's Not a Fashion Statement, It's a Fucking Deathwish" on the disc itself, as well as in the lyric sheet.
- Careful with That Axe: From Gerard, Frank and sometimes guest singers.
- "Just SLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!"
- "You're just a ghost, so I can't hurt you anymore - SO I CAN'T HURT YOU ANYMOOOOOOOOOORRRRAAAAAAAAAHH!!"
- "LET ME GO, FUCK!"
- "I'm ok... I'm o-KAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!"
- "And if they get me take this spike, and...YOU PUT THE SPIKE IN MY HEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAART!"
- "And down we go... AND WE ALL! FALL! DOWN! I TRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIED!"
- "When I GROW UP! I want to BE! NOTHING AT ALLLLLLL!"
- Cluster F-Bomb: "Our Lady of Sorrows." Full Stop.
- Concept Album: Each of their albums has an intricate backstory and concept behind it.
- This is especially true for The Black Parade, a Rock Opera about the final moments of a dying cancer patient and eventual death. When death comes for him, it takes the form of his fondest memory, which is a parade that he saw as a child.
- Danger Days is the story of the Killjoys, a group of outlaws in a post-apocalypic version of Calfornia who fight against the rule of an evil cooperation known as BL/ind.
- Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge is meant to be about a man and a woman who are separated by death. He goes to Hell, while she is still alive. The man makes a deal with the devil that he will be allowed to leave hell and be with her again once he collects the souls of a thousand evil men. The record ended up being more about themes of loss, based on experiences that the band were going through while recording the album.
- Concept Video: Most, if not all of them. Their most popular being "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" made to look like a movie trailer and "Welcome to the Black Parade," which sums up the plot of the album it comes from in about four minutes.
- Concert Kiss: Frank and Gerard were especially well-known for their antics onstage in 2007, the most famous being a passionate kiss at the beginning of the Projekt Revolution tour.
- Cover Version: The band has done several of these. Examples include:
- Creepy Child: Gerard often takes on this persona during the more theatrical moments, and especially seems to be channeling this in the live version of "Mama" at the iTunes Festival: London 2011 where he says this little gem:(raises his arms and smiles) Mama! Up.
- Dies Wide Open: Mikey in the music video for "The Ghost of You".
- Digital Piracy Is Evil: This is the anti-piracy warning on the back of "I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love":Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws and will result in Gerard coming to your house and sucking your blood.
- Dissonant Serenity: Crops up a lot, often in the middle of an otherwise very hardcore song. The instrumental will suddenly cut to gentle piano or strings and Gerard will start crooning, the new vocal style utterly at odds with the dark/nihilistic/violent words he's singing. However, this is a sure sign that the song is going to explode back to life in a few bars' time, even more loudly and aggressively than before.
- Documentary Episode: Life on the Murder Scene.
- Dye or Be Recognized at Comic Con. Apparently, the blonde hair at the 2010 SDCC was Gerard's "costume" so he could buy action figures in peace.
- Dying Alone: "Cubicles" mentions this in the chorus.
- EmPHAsis ON the Wrong SyllAble: "Skylines and Turnstiles," You're not in this a-lone.
- Emo Music: Although the band would disagree, they do have a lot in common with classic/post-hardcore emo. While some people will claim otherwise, they aren't really emo-pop since they have too much of a Hardcore Punk influence to really be an emo pop band. In addition they were an important band in the early 2000's post-hardcore scene along with Thursday and AFI.
- Epic Rocking: Over 5 minutes - "Vampires Will Never Hurt You" (5:26), "Early Sunsets Over Monroeville" (5:04), "Demolition Lovers" (6:06), "Welcome to the Black Parade" (5:11), "The Kids from Yesterday" (5:24), "The Light Behind Your Eyes" (5:12) and "The Foundations of Decay" (6:01).
- Everything's Deader with Zombies: "Early Sunsets Over Monroeville", which doubles as a Shout-Out to Dawn of the Dead (1978).
- Fading into the Next Song: "Helena" -> "Give 'em Hell, Kid", "The Ghost of You" -> "The Jetset Life Is Gonna Kill You".
- Fanservice: Unintentionally. Word of God says a lot of that (such as the "Frerard" gimmick) was done to piss people off, which is why a lot of that stopped after they realized people were into it.
- Faux Yay: Tended to be a staple of live shows. Became most prevalent during the 2007 Projekt Revolution tour, where it was done to make a statement against homophobia.
- Glamorous War Time Singer: My Chemical Romance as a WWII army band in The Ghost of You.
- Gratuitous Panning: Destroya.
- He Is All Grown Up: Mikey was never unattractive, but definitely overshadowed by his Pretty Boy and Large Ham brother. Fans have reacted quite strongly to Mikey's Kobra Kid persona, where he loses the glasses and dyes his hair blond.
- Iconic Item: Feathered boas, striped ties, the leather jacket (that'll turn your stomach), the bat belt buckle from Life on the Murder Scene... Coffee and cigarettes might even count with this band.
- Mikey's now-departed glasses.
- Likewise, Frank's departed guitar Pansy.
- Improvised Weapon: Towards the end of the "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" video, the band is squaring off against the jocks. Their weapon of choice? Croquet mallets.
- Nintendo Power Gloves and Zappers are the weapon of choice in 2019.
- Iris Out: Welcome to the Black Parade contains a rather persistent one, which keeps on trying to end the video.
- Jerk Jock: The apparent "enemy" in the "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" video.
- Jump Physics: A live show will make you wonder if they've harnessed some kind of ability to alter this.
- Kaleidoscope Hair: Gerard has changed his hair a lot. He's had it black, bleached blond and cut short, then long and bright red for Danger Days.
- Large Ham: Gerard owns this trope and then some. If he were an actor, he'd constantly have a belly full of scenery.
- Longest Song Goes Last: "Demolition Lovers" (6:06) from I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love and "I Never Told You What I Do for Living" (3:51) from Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge.
- Long Title: A few of them, especially "Honey, This Mirror Isn't Big Enough for the Two of Us", "It's Not a Fashion Statement, It's a Fucking Deathwish", and albums I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love and Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys.
- Lyrical Cold Open: "Teenagers", "Famous Last Words", "Boy Division" and "Helena".
- Lyrical Dissonance: The songs that aren't sad have awesome music that you can't get out of your head, set to lyrics that sometimes induce squick or fear when you actually listen.
"That's what happens when you're all borderline psychotic and therein lies the beauty of this band - our duality. There's a duality to each band member too. There's a desire to have this constant conflict. If we write a write a song and it turns out really poppy, we have to make the lyrics really fucked up. There's psychosis to everything we do for sure. One day we're probably gonna write this number one pop tune that will be about a massacre!"
- Example: Headfirst for Halos. A rather upbeat song until you listen to the lyrics. "I think I've blown my brains against the ceiling. And as the fragments of my skull begin to fall, fall on your tongue, like pixie dust..."
- As Gerard once said:
- Mad Artist: Some people consider Gerard to be a not-so-villainous version of this.
"Everybody in the whole place, whole place, clap!"
- As some bands do, Gerard enjoys crowd participation. Unlike most bands, he sometimes SINGS the instructions to replace the lyrics. Catch the 2008 performance of "Mama" in Mexico where he sings a cartoonish intro and tells folks to start clapping.
- Mind Screw: The video for "I Don't Love You".
- Mood Whiplash: More common in the live shows and the actual albums.
- Non-Appearing Title: Album by album, excluding instrumentals, spoken word interludes and bonus tracks:
- I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love: entire album.
- Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge: all songs except for "To the End", although "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" only omits the "I promise" part.
- The Black Parade: "The End.", "This Is How I Disappear" (near-avertion: the lyrics say "Without you is how I disappear"), "Welcome to the Black Parade", "House of Wolves", "Cancer", "Disenchanted" and "Famous Last Words".
- Danger Days: "Planetary (Go!)", "Party Poison" and "Summertime"
- Conventional Weapons: "Boy Division", "Tomorrow's Money", "AMBULANCE", "Kiss the Ring" (lyrics say: "Kiss that ring"), "Surrender the Night" and "Burn Bright (It's "burning bright" in lyrics).
- Nuns 'n' Rosaries: Frank, Ray, Mikey and Gerard were all raised Catholic and it shows.
- I Brought You My Bullets includes songs titled "Our Lady of Sorrows" and "Headfirst for Halos," and it doesn't stop there.
- She said "We'll shoot back holy water like cheap whiskey"
- Someone save my soul tonight
- Cross the patron saint of switchblade fights
- Everywhere on Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge.
Sister, I'm not much a poet but a criminal
- The music video for "Helena" takes place at a funeral/in a church, and the song itselfnote contains lines like We'll meet again / When both our cars collide.
- "Interlude," which had the working title "If We're Not Careful, We'll Turn Into Catholics": Saints, protect her now / Come, angels of the Lord / Come, angels of unknown.
- "Thank You for the Venom" is explicitly addressed to a nun.
Preach all you want but who's gonna save me?
I keep a gun on the book you gave me
Hallelujah, lock and load
- "Hang 'Em High": Shotgun sinners; The angels just cut out her tongue; Mass convulsions / Strike the choir / By the grace of God
- "It's Not A Fashion Statement, It's A Fucking Deathwish": From the razor to the rosary / We could lose ourselves / And paint these walls in pitchfork red
- "I Never Told You What I Do For A Living": You can say a prayer if you need to; Touched by angels, though I fall out of grace
- "Bury Me In Black": I can't explain what happened to my faith
- The Black Parade is about confronting/accepting mortality and thinking about the afterlife; according to Gerard, his fascination with the idea of death/the persistence of death as a theme in the band's music "comes from being raised Catholic."Gerard: "Your first experience with church is really scary — it's all about damnation and death. And the first time I was really taught about death wasn't really from my parents or TV, it was from a nun and it was [a] really terrifying way to hear it."
I know a thing about contrition
- Literally every line of "House of Wolves".
Because I got enough to spare
S-I-N, I S-I-N, S-I-N, I S-I-N
S-I-N, I S-I-N, S-I-N, I S-I-N
Tell me I'm a bad man
Kick me like a stray
Tell me I'm an angel
Take this to my graveHear the sound
The angels come screaming
Cause mostly I've been sprawled on these cathedral steps
While spitting out the blood and screaming,
"Someone save us!"
And will you pray for me?
Or make a saint of me?
Cause I'll give you all the nails you need
Cover me in gasoline
Wipe away those tears of blood again
And the punchline to the joke is asking,
"Someone save us!"
Heaven help us now
You don't know a thing about my sins
How the misery begins
- Gerard spent one tour regularly wearing a clerical collar.
- "Burn Bright" combines this with queer subtext: They always told me that "You never get to Heaven / With a love like yours" / Well, if if you're lost, little boy...
- Danger Days:
- ask angels made of neon and fucking garbage [...] scream out, "what will save us?" / and the sky opened up
- I'd rather go to hell / Than be in Purgatory
- "The Only Hope for Me is You": What have we learned? / Other than people burn in purifying flame
- "Save Yourself, I'll Hold Them Back": I hope you're ready for a firefight / Cause the Devil's got your number tonight
- Gerard frequently wore a rosary wrapped around his wrist in this era.
- I Brought You My Bullets includes songs titled "Our Lady of Sorrows" and "Headfirst for Halos," and it doesn't stop there.
- Ode to Family: "Helena" is about a dead relative.
- One-Woman Song: Helena.
- Our Vampires Are Different: "Vampires Will Never Hurt You". Might contain a bit of The Dead Can Dance, as one verse refers to the vampires hanging out at a nightclub.
- Draculoids! Which are not really vampires. Just mooks in Halloween masks.
- Out-of-Genre Experience: "I'm Not Okay" sounds like a Jimmy Eat World, Fall Out Boy, or Get Up Kids style Pop Punk-influenced Emo song, in contrast to the rest of Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge which veers closer to Post-Hardcore and classic Emo.
- Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Vocal version—Frank's pretty skinny and short, but he screams like a maniac.
- Porn Stache: Frank sports one sometimes.
- Precision F-Strike: Played straight in the case of Three Cheers of Sweet Revenge, where "fuck" is only heard twice in the whole album. (It still got a Parental Warning sticker.)
- Also happens in individual songs, like Save Yourself, I'll Hold Them Back, which has one loud F-bomb in the middle.
- Prison Rape: "You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us In Prison", which seems to be a subversion of Double Standard: Rape, Male on Male. The laughter at the end is the singer going insane and threatening to commit arson.
- Promoted Fanboy: Gerard Way was a fan of Doom Patrol, which he went on to write.
- Real Trailer, Fake Movie: The basic theme of the "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" video.
- Rock Opera: The Black Parade and Danger Days.
- "Sesame Street" Cred: They appeared on a Christmas episode of Yo Gabba Gabba! (billed as "MCR").
- Shout-Out: A fair number of their songs contain references to other things.
"For what you did to me, for what I'll do to you, you get what everyone else gets—you get a lifetime!" note
- "It's Not a Fashion Statement, It's a Death Wish" paraphrases one of Death's most famous quotes from Neil Gaiman's The Sandman:
- Shot-for-Shot Remake: "The Ghost Of You"'s music video closely imitates Saving Private Ryan's Omaha Beach scene.
- Sir Swears-a-Lot: Gerard onstage.
- Slasher Smile: Gerard has a particular affinity for breaking into wide, eerie grins as he performs. The music video for "Famous Last Words" is a striking example.
- Something We Forgot: Ray Toro has, according to him and other members of the band, been left at truck stops by accident while on tour.
- The fandom sometimes seems to forget that Mikey exists.
- Take That!: We Don't Need Another Song About California may qualify as one towards the current pop music trends at the time. Cough, cough.
- Textless Album Cover: Danger Days, Living With Ghosts, and several special-edition vinyl versions of The Black Parade.
- Title-Only Chorus: DESTROYA, DESTROYA, DESTROYA, DESTROYA...
- Undeathly Pallor: Everybody in the protagonist's non-hospital scenes in "Welcome to the Black Parade," whatever's going on there. (Is it post-death or somewhere between life and death? Whatever the case, the non-hospital people are sickly pale, whereas the protagonist actually has color to his skin while battling for his life in the hospital, and so do the nurses.)
- Vocal Dissonance: Ray is a literal example of the trope, and the band themselves often surprised people in their early days being a bunch of emo/goth-looking guys who love screaming and guitar solos.
- War Is Hell: "Mama" and "Ghost of You."
- Whole Plot Reference: Their Music Video for their song "Honey, This Mirror Isn't Big Enough for the Two of Us" recounts the plot of the movie Audition, interspersed with clips of them playing.
- So long, and good night...