There is a perilously fine line, too, between genius and insanity. In confounding new-formed expectations of MCR, it was one he invited his bandmates to walk. Gerard’s vision had always been that the band’s third LP would be their ultimate triumph. As expectations had soared around them, he dared to dream of an era-defining masterpiece. Departed drummer Matt Pelissier was replaced by Bob Bryar. Superstar producer Rob Cavallo – famed for elevating the likes of Green Day and Jawbreaker – was brought aboard to demolish any preconceived limitations. A skeletal concept was devised: the unprecedentedly bleak tale of a cancer victim dying and revisiting the events of his life. There would be the parades he visited, the wars fought, the loves lost. The band retreated within these haunted walls, knowing they’d need to eviscerate themselves to put flesh on the bones.
A space inside was designated The Heavy Room. It was here that the band would go to confront one another and thrash out their feelings – often hurtfully so. “There were times when we really cut ourselves open,” Gerard reflected on how those cuts bled black. “We had our souls drained out. I’m serious – this record tried to kill us.”
Obsession took hold. Gerard spoke of going to bed at 6am, then rising four hours later to dive back in, every wall covered in notes and mood drawings. This wasn’t just a case of putting together a collection of songs. It was about building a whole new world.
“I was a fucking lunatic,” he recalled. “I was trying to oversee everything. We went fucking crazy. I got obsessed with death. For days, I played The Passion Of The Christ with the sound off. I couldn’t get things grim enough. I ended a relationship. In fact, I was so obsessed that my entire personal life got destroyed. It really felt like something was coming after us.”
“We were always on the brink,” Frank Iero confirmed. “Always…”
“We were festering,” Mikey Way, who temporarily left the band to go into therapy for depression and addiction, said less delicately. “This is the sort of time in a band’s career when people might lose their mind. [For me] it all came to a head, I couldn’t stop it. I had to go away and fix myself. There were some screws loose upstairs that needed tightening.”
Emerging from the process, though, there was a feeling that from such psychological savagery, they had wrung a dark masterpiece.
“When it was done,” Gerard grinned, “I knew that we’d created a monster.
“This band has always had a desire to achieve greatness. It’s always loved the taste of victory, it loves winning, and it loves beating the odds. I feel like we’ve put everything on black and spun the roulette wheel. But you know what? If you’re not risking everything, you might as well not play at all.”