Deliberately disordered and yet so evidently crafted with total precision, Frank Iero finds his identity on the achingly beautiful Heaven is a Place, This is a Place. A sequel to the equally visceral Barriers, the EP wields the heartache of a chaotic year into an elegy for growth, and makes for a riveting dissection by The Mic’s Charlie Farrer.
Heaven Is A Place, This Is A Place was released as a companion piece to 2019’s Barriers EP and provides us with the same angst and passion that we know and love from Frank Iero. It reprises the dark and complex sound and stunning guitar from previous records including Parachutes (2016) and Barriers (2019). As an artist, Iero is staggeringly consistent and imposing as he continues to release these influential records that explore love and devotion in a manner which few artists are able. There’s wide contrast, even within just these four songs, which paints a full emotional portrait and a beautiful EP that evokes deep emotions whilst remaining easy to listen to and enjoy.
Side A gifts us with two songs that are intrinsically powerful and full of both the rage of previous works like Leathermouth and Parachutes and the heartfelt vulnerability of Stomachaches. They invite us to confront the upset and longing we keep inside ourselves and be genuine with one another about how we truly feel. Iero teaches us to release teen anger at an unfair world whilst being brutally honest and tender with those we love. It’s easy to understand why, as an emo thirteen-year old, I immediately fell in love with 2014’s Stomachaches when it was released. I have always loved the emotion in Iero’s voice and how this alone makes him such a relatable and lovable artist who expresses himself in such a raw and intimate style. When paired with the lyricism of this EP, it makes his work so endearing.
‘From an important and essential artist, Heaven is a Place is like a warm hug amidst the madness and uncertainty of 2020.’
Side B dulls this rage and becomes softer and more sombre. It includes a gentle cover of R.E.M’s Losing My Religion. This fits in perfectly, allowing us a break from the heavy guitar of other songs, we get to rightly appreciate the coarse emotion in Iero’s voice. This is a song about frustration and desperation, as well as confession of your authentic feelings. This continues to emphasise the struggle of expressing yourself to your loved ones in a mission to be honest and declare your feelings. In the press release for the EP, Iero speaks about working with Kayleigh Goldsworthy on this song: “During that first tour together we got to talking about how we shared a love for R.E.M., and more specifically Losing my Religion. So, on the last night of tour in San Francisco, we found a stairwell and made an iPhone voice memo demo of the song. It felt like magic and that was the moment I was convinced this couldn’t be the only thing we did together.”
Record Ender is a very special and personal song to end this EP, that began with Violence, a potent track which announces, “your violence feels like kisses to me/ your silence makes it harder to breathe/ your distance feels like I’m not enough, I need your touch.” As someone who has always lived with mental health issues, Iero is a very significant artist to me. He writes about how he experiences the world and navigates relationships in a manner which is very unique, yet creates a shared image of struggle, yearning and, always, honesty. He understands feeling alone and helpless and promises us ”I’ll be right beside you.” Endowed with confidence, Heaven Is A Place takes us on an impassioned journey through a year where, more than ever, we understand acutely the fury, longing and loneliness that Iero is writing about. He teaches us to accept our inner child’s needs and desires, and profess our true emotions. This is, overall, a deeply impressive EP which follows on well from 2019’s Barriers. It is perhaps a common misconception that music which expresses negative themes cannot inspire or bring joy; Iero proves this wrong again and again by sharing these songs about finding hope, companionship, and sharing yourself with others.
It feels like these songs couldn’t have come into the world at a better time. With the events of 2020, including a pandemic, increased right-wing violence in the US, and a global rise in fascism, Iero’s anger and vulnerability speaks to many of us in many ways. In a current climate where American masculinity is defined by figures such as Donald Trump, it is deeply necessary and political that an EP like this is released; one in which Iero is so forward about his emotions and a need for companionship and touch. He reaches out to express his emotions and, in turn, teaches the listener that it is okay to do so in a world where young men are often discouraged. In this endeavour, his message also manages to be intensely personal. This EP is about authenticity, righteous outrage, and emotional honesty. Frank Iero tells us that it’s okay to not be okay, and you should never apologise for your emotions. From an important and essential artist, this EP is like a warm hug amidst the madness and uncertainty of 2020.
Written by: Charlie Farrer Edited by: Olivia Stock