Welcome Back to the Black Parade: My Chemical Romance Reunites

Oscar Kim Bauman, Living Arts Editor

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After being broken up for over six years, My Chemical Romance, titans of 2000s alternative rock, are apparently back. Fitting with their gothic image, the band announced their reunion show on Halloween, scheduled for December 20. While this concert (planned to take place at the Shrine in Los Angeles) was initially speculated to be a one-off reunion, the band has since announced additional dates in Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, with American dates assumed by fans to be in the works. 

My Chemical Romance was formed by frontman Gerard Way in late 2001 as a creative outlet for the strong emotions he felt after witnessing the 9/11 attacks while living in New Jersey and working in New York City. In the months after this inciting incident, the band’s lineup solidified, with Ray Toro and Frank Iero on guitars, Matt Pelissier on drums, and Way’s younger brother Mikey on bass. The band’s name, suggested by Mikey, is inspired by a story collection by Irvine Welsh entitled “Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance.” 

My Chemical Romance released their first album, “I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love” in 2002, and began gaining attention for their unique musical style, which blended emo and hardcore punk influences with a spirit of gothic flamboyance. The record was more than a collection of songs, it was a concept album, with a supernatural horror narrative threaded throughout it. This became a defining trait of My Chemical Romance: all four of their studio albums feature characters and narratives.

For their second album, 2004’s “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge,” My Chemical Romance secured a major label record deal, and gained greater commercial success with singles like “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” and “Helena.” The album saw the band refine their sound, becoming part of the mid-2000s emo-pop explosion which also saw bands like Fall Out Boy, Panic! At the Disco, and Paramore rise to fame. Shortly after this album’s release, Pelissier left the band and was replaced by Bob Bryar, who would become the band’s longest-serving drummer.

In 2006, My Chemical Romance released what would become their defining album, “The Black Parade.” A rock opera telling the story of a man struggling to move into the afterlife after his death, the album drew from the theatricality of artists like Queen, David Bowie, and Led Zeppelin, while infusing it with My Chemical Romance’s dark punk energy. “The Black Parade” also saw multiple successful singles, including “Teenagers” and “Welcome to the Black Parade,” the latter of which has gained a reputation as the emo generation’s answer to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Finally, My Chemical Romance released what, for now, remains their last album, “Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys” in 2010. Taking on a less aggressive style featuring synthesizers and neon aesthetics, the album is set in a then-futuristic universe: California in the year 2019. Bryar left the band due to creative differences during the album’s recording, and rather than replace him, the band continued as a four-piece. In the music videos for the singles “Na Na Na” and “Sing,” the Way brothers, Toro, and Iero act out the story of the album, taking on the role of the rebellious “Killjoys,” fighting against a sinister megacorporation known as Better Living Industries. 

After finishing promotions for “Danger Days,” My Chemical Romance released a series of previously unreleased demos, recorded prior to that album, under the name “Conventional Weapons.” These ten demos were released as five two-sided singles between October 2012 and February 2013. Subsequently, My Chemical Romance announced their breakup in March 2013. A greatest hits album, featuring one more unreleased track, “Fake Your Death,” came out in 2014.

In the years that followed, each of the band’s members embarked on solo ventures. Gerard Way released a solo album in 2014, and continued pursuing his other artistic passions, contributing writing and art to multiple comic book series, and supervising the Netflix adaptation of his comic series “Umbrella Academy.” Toro released a couple of solo songs and collaborated with Gerard Way on some singles. Mikey Way formed the duo Electric Century, toured with other bands, and followed his brother in writing for comics. Iero was the most musically active, putting out three albums in 2014, 2016, and 2019. 

Much is unknown about My Chemical Romance’s reunion. We know that the band’s last lineup of the Way brothers, Toro, and Iero will be the ones returning, sans Pelissier, Bryar, or keyboardist James Dewees, who briefly joined the band as an official member shortly before its initial breakup. We know that they will play at least four dates, this December in Los Angeles, and Australia, New Zealand, and Japan in the spring. Hopes for new music or further tour dates rest on future announcements. But for legions of fans, the very fact that one of the most exciting bands of the 21st century is back in the first place might be enough.