Podcast: Talking Emo Music with Author Taylor Markarian

On the latest It’s All Dead podcast episode, Kiel Hauck is joined by Taylor Markarian, author of “From the Basement: A History of Emo Music and How it Changed Society”. Taylor has written for publications like Alternative Press, Kerrang, and Revolver and also served as an intern at Epitaph Records. Her new book explores the cultural, social, and psychological factors surrounding emo and indie music. On the podcast, Taylor shares about her years growing up in the New Jersey punk and emo scene and the importance of music in mental health. Take a listen!

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Posted by Kiel Hauck

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Review: Frank Iero and The Violent Futures – Barriers

Frank Iero’s passion for rock music shines through his solo work more than the heavy mood would have you believe. Barriers, Iero’s third solo album, celebrates rock music. The album is moody and constantly blitzing with wild energy. He sounds raw—similar to some of the best emo releases of the mid-2000s. Barriers sounds like a lost masterpiece from a decade earlier, but isn’t dated in the least. Iero doesn’t have to work too hard to craft his own identity from past work with My Chemical Romance and Leathermouth. Barriers is an album that overcomes every obstacle to stand tall on its own, possibly as Iero’s best solo release.

You can buy or stream Barriers on Apple Music.

Each new interpretation of his solo career has refined his sound and not shied away from the gloom that helped define him as a musician. The guitars are fuzzed, but still release a hard melody. Iero’s writing channels the best aspects of rock and focuses it down to a grungy tip. It allows the album to be a cohesive collection while adding a massive variety to the sound.

Opener, “A New Day’s Coming” mixes blues and a gospel-heavy keyboard with heavy, raw guitars. The chorus of “Fever Dream” rages with simple power chords, reminiscent of classic-era Green Day. Meanwhile, “Moto-Pop” rages with metal inspiration from Black Sabbath. Iero and fellow guitarist Evan Nestor are clearly relishing their ability to play whatever they want.

Bassist Matt Armstrong (Murder By Death) provides a hard, dark mood throughout the album (“Medicine Square Garden”). Keyboardist and backing vocalist Kayleigh Goldsworthy adds just enough to crank the effect of Iero’s demons throughout the album. She hides like an angel or a demon haunting Iero’s highs and lows (“Six Feet Down Under”). Former Thursday drummer Tucker Rue adds an energy to the album that keeps the music charged even in more somber moments (“No Love”).

Where Iero impresses the most is in his vocals. The wild change in singing styles throughout the album keep each line engaging. The preference to get the emotion out, even if it means falling flat, lends a haunting urgency to each line. Clean, lazy singing on “A New Day’s Coming” is inspiring. Slurred, charged shouting during “Young and Doomed” channels a blend of AFI’s Davy Havok’s eccentricity and Thursday’s Geoff Rickly’s angst. Meanwhile, singing through gritted teeth, grunge whispers and hedonistic shouting, “Fever Dream” is wave after wave of unfiltered energy thrown at the microphone.

Barriers is a thick album. There’s certainly an argument that it could have benefitted from being a couple tracks shorter. However, Iero’s passion for music shines through each track. Although it’s hard not to compare him to a few legendary bands he was a key part of, Iero has forged a solo career defined by the freedom to lay waste to expectation. Barriers is Iero at his best—doubling down on a genre he helped forge and paying homage to rock music from every region of the genre.

4/5

Photo credit: Mitchell Wojcik

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and stepped in a puddle this morning. Now he is known as “Dumb ol’ Wet Foot.”

What Makes for a Great Autumn Album?

My favorite season has officially arrived. On a crisp Sunday morning, I’ve found myself cooking pumpkin pancakes in the kitchen, sipping my coffee as cool air comes in through the open window. Yes, I’m “that” guy. But perhaps my favorite part of the morning is listening to the sounds of one of my favorite fall albums: Copeland’s In Motion spins on the turntable as I cook.

But what does In Motion have to do with autumn? This is the question I’ve been seeking to answer ever since someone put me on the spot a few weeks ago, asking me what I mean when I talk about my favorite fall albums. I realized that I didn’t have a good, succinct answer. Maybe there wasn’t one.

Listen to our podcast: The Best Music of Autumn

I’m convinced that this idea is extremely subjective and differs from person to person, but nevertheless, in order to at least answer for myself, I’ve been able to define four variables that impact my tendency to listen to an album when the leaves turn and the temperature drops. Take a look below and feel free to share your thoughts in the replies!

When it Was Released

This one is obvious. I’m drawn to dates and anniversaries, so if an album came out a certain time of year, I’m inclined to revisit it during that timeframe. A great example is Mayday Parade’s self-titled release, which dropped in October of 2011. The album really doesn’t meet any of the other criteria outlined below, but every fall, it’s one of the first albums I reach for.

When I listen to Mayday Parade, it takes me back to the early dating days with my wife and how often I played the album on the hour-long car ride to her home in Bloomington, Indiana, during our first fall together.

Other times, release dates align perfectly with the sound of an album. My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade arrived a week before Halloween in 2006 and is almost custom-made for the season with its themes of death and imagery of hellish characters. It’s now my go-to album to spin during our annual pumpkin carving.

How it Sounds

We now move to a much more arbitrary point, but I would argue that some songs and albums just “sound” like the season. Here, I think of cool, sometimes dark, music that reminds me of shorter days and how I feel when I see my breath in the air early in the morning.

A few albums that come to mind here are Armor For Sleep’s Dream to Make Believe and Chiodos’ Bone Palace Ballet. Armor For Sleep is a summer band for many, and their second album, What to Do When You Are Dead, is a warm-weather staple of mine, but Dream to Make Believe has a raw, harsh quality that sets it apart. A track like “Frost and Front Steps” is nearly impossible not to associate with the season.

Likewise, Bone Palace Ballet, with its crunching guitars and theatrics reminds me of the looming darkness of the season, checking the boxes of both sound and lyrics, with its eerie and spooky themes.

What it Has to Say

Speaking of lyrics, perhaps the most obvious delineator of an autumn album is what it has to say. Here, I think of albums or songs that call attention to the most visual and visceral aspects of the season. While many equate Cartel’s Chroma to summer, it’s a distinctly transition-to-fall album for me, especially with a track like “Luckie St.” serving as an autumn anthem.

With Halloween being my favorite holiday, many albums qualify simply for their creepy subject matter. Think My Chemical Romance’s Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge or The Devil Wears Prada’s Zombie EP, along with several tracks from Showbread’s first two albums (“Dead By Dawn” from their debut is a Halloween staple of mine).

Not to be outdone, He is Legend has their own history of horror-filled tales. Suck out the Poison is a go-to for me this time of year, due both to its release date nostalgia (released October, 2006), and because of its subject matter, with songs like “Attack of the Dungeon Witch” leading the way.

How it Looks

Anyone who knows me knows of my insistence that the visual presentation of an album matters. My vinyl collection started years ago as a way to still admire the artwork of my favorite albums, even as our transition to streaming made full art and liner notes less accessible and robust. Thus, albums that incorporate autumn colors and visuals can’t be forgotten when determining their seasonal placement.

All of this brings us back to Copeland, whose album In Motion features yellow/brown leaves on its cover and captures the colors of fall throughout the album artwork. Likewise, Anberlin’s debut Blueprints for the Black Market, with its reddish brown tones, harkens of late autumn, capped off with cool-sounding guitars and references to cold.

So there you have it. It’s not a science, but there are certainly real factors that determine my own interest in an album by season, particularly when autumn rolls around. Here’s to another season of late nights by the campfire, horror movie sofa sessions, and pumpkin pancake cooking with the sounds of fall.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Review: As It Is – The Great Depression

As It Is are one of the treasures of new-wave pop punk. While they could have easily become just another New Found Glory clone, they have spent their career expanding their sound with each album, as though they are trying to find the essence of pop punk itself. The Great Depression, though, sounds like a true sequel to the band’s sophomore effort, Okay. Where that album used pop to show how the outside world sees someone suffering within themselves, The Great Depression relies on hard rock to show how someone suffering sees the outside world.

You can buy or stream The Great Depression on Apple Music.

The Great Depression is an aggressive album that doesn’t try to solve the issue of depression. Instead, it takes aim at society’s quiet acceptance while attempting to remove the romanticism of the idea in general (“I know this isn’t something you’re going to like to hear / Which is exactly why you need to hear this”). As It Is borrows liberally from the emo bands of the mid-2000’s, even going so far as to carry a very deliberate My Chemical Romance homage in their recent music videos.

Guitarist Benjamin Langford-Biss’s guitarwork utterly changes gears for this album. He delves much deeper into a new, harder sounds that significantly expands the band’s range (“The Reaper”, “The Two Tongues (Screaming Salvation)”). Bassist Alistair Testo builds a steady background of rough pop that bounces the tracks along despite how hard the guitars get. However, drummer Patrick Foley may be the hidden MVP of the album. His walls of percussion are extravagantly diverse, as though he was working overtime to impress guest vocalist Aaron Gillespie (“The Reaper”).

Likewise, vocalist Patty Walters gives a career best performance. He is pitch perfect for a pop record, but it’s the hints of screaming that make the performance. It adds an edge and urgency that matches the harsh aesthetic.

The Great Depression is a concept album that follows a character who personifies depression as either God or death itself. Either way, this being represents a society that is impartial or unconcerned with the struggles of mental illness. It is an element that adds chaos to someone who just strives to find peace.

Some songs take on depression in general, such as, “The Stigma (Boys Don’t Cry)”, as Walters sings, “I see a pain behind your eyes / I know you feel it everyday / It’s like a light that slowly dies / But it’s better not to say / It’s better not to say such things out loud”.

Other songs address this entity cursing the narrator’s life directly. During “The Reaper”, Walters sings, “I used to sing his praise / But now there’s no sweetness in his name / He’s been dying to show me to my grave”. “The Two Tongues (Screaming Salvation)” bargains with the entity for a normal life. “I tell him there’s no chance, I’m not giving him my soul / It doesn’t feel it now but I know my heart is full / I’m not sure he’s right, but I’m not sure he’s wrong / I’m just desperate to belong”.

Closing track, “The End.” pleads for the outside world to understand without being playful. “Because I don’t need you to see this and I don’t want you to feel this / But I only have so much spark to offer in all of this darkness and I screamed for you until the day I gave up and lost my voice”.

The Great Depression is a leap of faith for As It Is. It is drastically different from their past work and addresses similar topics as their previous album from a whole new angle. It is arguably the band’s best work to date, and their most daring. As It Is could simply release pop record after pop record. Instead, they are proving themselves some of the most capable musicians of their generation.

4/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and just spilled a tray of tater tots. He is essentially a wobbly toddler that pays rent. Pro Tip: Cats don’t eat floor tots.

10 Halloween Songs to Bump in the Night

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October is in full swing, and soon, we’ll all be clad in our favorite costumes, celebrating the spookiest of holidays. To get you ready for your next Halloween bash, we’ve put together a monstrous list of the most terrifying pop punk and post-hardcore songs to ever walk the earth.

Throughout the years, several bands from the scene have taken the opportunity to tell chilling tales set to the sounds of squealing guitars and drum fills. We think it all makes for the perfect brew – a frightening soundtrack of Halloween terror. So go ahead and listen, if you dare. These songs are so good, it’s scary.

Showbread – “Dead By Dawn”

What better way to indulge in Halloween revelry than with a screamo portrayal of “Evil Dead 2?” Showbread, forever a band with a flair for the dramatic (and a love of horror movies), unleashes a terrifying tale of the Book of the Dead and the subsequent mayhem that ensues.

Sleeping with Sirens – “Dead Walker Texas Ranger”

Sleeping with Sirens made their entry into the post-hardcore Halloween canon with a song inspired by “The Walking Dead.” Here, the band advises us to run for our lives and “Watch as your greatest fears return to life.” Look out! They’re right behind you!

The Devil Wears Prada – “Outnumbered”

Speaking of the undead, The Devil Wears Prada have something to say with their five-song Zombie EP. On “Outnumbered”, the band depict a fallen world overrun with the living dead, backlit by brutal breakdowns. If the frightening tale won’t crush you, the music will.

Panic! at the Disco – “This is Halloween”

Want something a touch more light-hearted? Brendan Urie and co. are here with a rendition from everyone’s favorite Tim Burton tale. Panic! capture the mischief and magic of Jack Skellington on this frightfully fun track.

He Is Legend – “Attack of the Dungeon Witch”

Another band with a knack for scary stories, He Is Legend tell the tale of a violently vile antagonist that appears to cast a spell of charm. “I drank with the dungeon witch / Left my ring on her night stand / I woke with the dungeon witch / Now she’s got the upper hand”.

My Chemical Romance – “Vampires Will Never Hurt You”

For a band that made a living off of dark stories of revenge and death, it’s hard to pick just one song by My Chemical Romance that fits the Halloween mold. Before he shouted Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge or marched along with The Black Parade, Gerard Way sang of the allure of bloodsucking monsters.

The Maine – “Forever Halloween”

With Forever Halloween, The Maine took a lighter approach to the spooky holiday season. On the album’s title track, we’re told that the bumps in the night are nothing to be afraid of: “And darling, don’t you start to scream / It doesn’t mean anything / It’s just make believe”.

AFI – “Halloween”

The Misfits were certainly a band custom made for Halloween and AFI beautifully encapsulates that spirit on their cover of “Halloween”. Another band that knows their way around the darkness, AFI rip through this track for their All Hallow’s EP as Davey Havok sounds like a man on fire.

Fall Out Boy – “What’s This?”

You could argue “What’s This?” as more of a Christmas song, but its inclusion as a vital piece of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” soundtrack makes it eligible for this list. Plus, who could resist the sounds of Patrick Stump crooning, “Instead of screams, I swear / I can hear music in the air”.

Showbread – “George Romero Will Be at Our Wedding”

Our list wouldn’t be complete without one more song from Showbread as they pay homage to horror genius George Romero. Here, Josh Dies sings from the perspective of a man-turned zombie in search of his love. “If true love lasts forever, then love doesn’t die / It just becomes the living dead”. How romantic!

BONUS! Kanye West – “Monster”

What’s scarier than “Sasquatch, Godzilla, King Kong, Loch Ness”? How about a dark track in which ‘Ye, Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj all embrace their inner monster? In fact, if Nicki’s blood-curdling shriek at the end of her manic verse doesn’t send chills down your spine, you may want to literally check your pulse.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Reflecting On: Say Anything – In Defense of the Genre

In many ways, In Defense of the Genre is the absolute time capsule of pop punk in 2007. The sounds spanning the double album run the gamut of what was popular at the time while still managing to be, arguably, the most “Say Anything” record that exists. Guest vocals appear on over half the songs in unique, significant parts. In Defense of the Genre isn’t for everyone, especially on first listen, but it is an opus that celebrates and challenges the genre in every way.

You can buy In Defense of the Genre on iTunes.

After the success of …Is a Real Boy, Max Bemis faced what seemed an impossible task: topping himself. What he produced is a masterpiece of collaboration, experimentation and craft. In Defense of the Genre brought the outward, judgmental venom of “Admit It!!!” and cast it in every direction. To counterbalance this, Bemis also provided uncomfortably reflective and humbling lyrics of himself. The colorful poetry describing drug addiction, psychosis and coming to terms with indiscriminate anger is equal parts enthralling and sickening.

In Defense of the Genre is a dark album that reflects the time of its release. The golden era of the early 2000’s had faded and the few bands that still seemed to have any traction were heavier and brooding. Nearly everyone took a stab at experimentation, and while some succeeded, this era saw a massive drop off of bands that had been big just a couple years prior.

Rather than remake another punk record, Say Anything delved to see how depraved pop punk could be. The entire album is a blur of genre. Techno, dance, ragtime piano, grunge and pop seamlessly traipse between tempo changes that would kill a song by a lesser writer. Somehow, each sound manages to survive a solid coat of production and make a cohesive sound. In Defense of the Genre is as much a masterful dark pop album as it is the sound of madness itself.

The stories about Max Bemis prior to this album are legendary. Wandering the streets before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, mental hospitals, and drug abuse seemed to constantly filter in through the news sites for a while. In his writing, not only did Bemis not shy away from this, the entire album documents the process of finding himself in the midst of madness (“The Church Channel”) and crawling his way out (“Sorry, Dudes. My Bad.”)

While each song attempted something new, some of the true stand outs are the acoustic tracks. “An Insult to the Dead” is one of Say Anything’s most amazing songs. The wrangled guitar, the gentle tambourine and plinking piano, and Max’s voice, accompanied by the faint shout in the background during the chorus, create a haunted effect. More than anything, the heartbreak in Bemis’ voice as he sings, “Oh God, forgive me Moses, Jesus, Allah” is unparalleled.

One true highlight is the use of guest vocals. They’re expertly chosen and provide a snapshot of who was popular. What’s amazing is how many of them are still wildly relevant today. On top of that, their placement in songs reflects the guest’s own personality. Taking Back Sunday’s Adam Lazzara provides the evil voice of paranoia on “Surgically Removing the Tracking Device”. Paramore’s Hayley Williams is the defiant angel on his shoulder in “The Church Channel” that urges him to seek help (“You were forlorn in despair / With your drugs and your hardcore porn / Trust me, those days won’t be mourned”).

Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba provides a haunting melody in the background of “Retarded in Love”. Anthony Green is the voice of alcoholism (“Hangover Song”). Gerard Way appears in the title track, a song attempting to make sense of why musicians write. The song breaks into a momentary country western jamboree as Way sings, “I’ve got an empty wallet and a record cover”, reminding himself that the best art doesn’t guarantee reward.

Max Bemis never hid his adoration of Saves The Day. I remember hearing a rumor about how the band dropped off of a tour with Saves The Day, allegedly due to drug problems. “Sorry, Dudes. My Bad.” seems to address this directly. Max asks his bandmates for help, and swears that evil shouldn’t be in their tour van. Saves The Day’s Chris Conley appears after an interlude of people offering help. Hearing Bemis’ personal hero shout, “If you want it, then come and get it /We’re all with you now”, still gives me chills 10 years later.

In Defense of the Genre is a true artistic endeavor. It was a massive risk taken at the height of Say Anything’s popularity. It’s also the last ‘classic’ Say Anything record. After this, the band’s sound became poppier and Max’s struggles less dire. What should be a hot mess of a record manages to be a cohesive concept album that finds the sound of madness itself. It’s an album that truly deserves to be celebrated on its anniversary, even though it may not be to everyone’s liking.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and is currently fighting the pesky Baratheon hordes! …..Or battling his cat to the death over small flakes of chicken.

Podcast: My Chemical Romance – The Black Parade – 10 Years Later

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It’s hard to believe, but The Black Parade is officially 10 years old. On this episode of the podcast, Kiel Hauck and Kyle Schultz reflect on a classic by My Chemical Romance. They share their memories of the album, why it was so important to the scene, break down their favorite “what ifs,” and discuss the impact the album had on the band’s eventual demise. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What are your thoughts on The Black Parade 10 years later? Share your thoughts in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Podcast: The Best Music of 2006

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It’s that special time of year again! Kiel Hauck and Kyle Schultz chat about their favorite albums that turn 10 years old in 2016. Included in the discussion are classic releases from Underoath, My Chemical Romance, Saosin, The Early November, Taking Back Sunday, Saves the Day and many more. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here. What are your favorite albums from 2006? Share your thoughts in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

It’s All Dead Podcast Episode: 013 – Best Album Openers and Closers

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There’s something about a great opening track that can set the tone for an entire album. Likewise, a killer closer can bring things full circle and act as the perfect bookend to a great record. On this episode of the official It’s All Dead Podcast, Kiel and Kyle break down their favorite album openers and closers of all time. Listen in and share some of your favorites in the replies!

[audio http://traffic.libsyn.com/itsalldead/IAD_Podcast_013_mixdown.mp3|titles=It’s All Dead podcast episode: 013]

Subscribe to our podcast here.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: Gerard Way – Hesitant Alien

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My Chemical Romance was a well-worn machine; they created magic in the recording studio and spread the credit to each member of the band. Now that they’ve separated, it’s becoming interesting and far easier to see the individual cogs that held MCR together.

I think it is safe to say that most everyone expected Gerard Way’s first solo album to be a sassy demonstration of his swagger and persona, but considering that he was really only credited with lead vocals on MCR’s albums and on stage, it’s impressive that he can write an album that is just so damn good.

Hesitant Alien sounds as though it is a natural progression out of MCR’s Danger Days; wave after wave of fuzzy guitars, heavy drums, bombardments of bass and a raging synth. There is a dynamic surf-style chord progression to the guitars that keep the songs grungy and charismatic.

This is a common thread throughout the album that makes it sound cohesive, if not slightly similar. The punk aspect that Way has been so familiar with is replaced by driving rock beats that sound more aligned with a heavy indie sound. The addition of random instruments, like a saxophone in “Get the Gang Together” just feels right with the playfulness of the music.

As someone not known for his guitar work, Way seamlessly channels the sound from verse to chorus to intricate and meaningful solos. The fuzz of the guitar doesn’t get in the way of melody or overpower the other instruments. “No Shows” has a heavy rhythm that translates to an energetic jam of an instrumental halfway through. The fuzzed power chords become incredibly soothing against the relentless drums. The bass is heavy, often equally as fuzzy and always popping at the forefront.

As with Frnkiero and the Cellabration, former MCR touring drummer Jarrod Alexander absolutely kills it. He destroys the drums with heavy beats that maintain a hypnotic steadiness that pairs perfectly with the grunge of the guitars and Way’s eccentric vocals.

Vocally, Way delivers the electric performance he is known for. He barks out sharp vocals that sound more comfortable and natural against the pop grunge guitar than the stylized punk rock of MCR. However, that may be the biggest detriment to his voice; it sounds comfortable. While his singing sounds natural and eccentric, he doesn’t seem to be pushing or challenging himself the way that his fans know he oftentimes does. However, given the work he put into writing such balanced songwriting, it’s not surprising that he wouldn’t strain his vocals as much with everything else to concentrate on.

Lyrically, fans shouldn’t expect to find the grand storytelling or deep poetic prose of MCR. These songs are whimsical and simple. They’re easy to sing along to, but don’t carry much weight past the surface level. The verses are sparse, with the brunt of the song relying on the chorus, such as the second verse of “Action Cat”, which is simply, “Every accidental damage I wouldn’t take, every heart I left behind you couldn’t break.”

There are a few charming lyrics though, but they are sparsely hidden. During “Millions”, Way sings, “You believe in love, I believe in faith. They’ll believe in anything, you make up the villains. A trillion legions of the damned and William.” Nothing deep emotionally, but it’s a line that will turn your head. Though the lyrics are pretty basic, they make some great lines to sing over the raving guitars.

Hesitant Alien is a great surprise from an artist not particularly known outside of their vocals and energetic stage performance. The quality of the writing and experimentation is beyond what I imagined Way capable of on his first go as a solo artist, which proves how little I thought I knew about the inner workings of MCR.

The energy, passion and spectacle are alive and thriving on this record. Just like he managed a little over a decade ago, Gerard Way came out swinging to prove to anyone willing to listen that he’s one of the greatest performers of this generation.

4/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.