Heaven Is a Place, This Is a Place is an EP of 2 very distinct halves – 4 tracks divided in two, the first half is in-your-face and utterly ferocious while the second half stands in almost complete contrast with a much more delicate and mellow tone. There are standout moments on either side of the split but is it good as a whole? Yes, with one or two slight caveats.
Serving as a companion piece to 2019’s Barriers, this EP feels like a very confident release from Iero and his band, and straight off the bat it’s worth stating that the songs here are all pretty great. The initial impression, for myself at least, was not overly positive, but over time and several listens these songs have really opened up to me, and the tracks on what is effectively Side B of the EP especially stay with me long after each listen.
The EP opens with the aggressive Violence, which features a riff so incredible that I’m inclined to say it’s one of the highlights of the whole collection, and continues with the track Sewerwolf which is outrageously good and outrageously angry. This first half of the EP will no doubt appeal to fans of Iero’s previous work, and I would recommend it to anyone with a taste for particularly aggro music.
As previously stated, however, it’s Side B in which this EP really shines through. Featuring a reasonably faithful cover of R.E.M.’s Losing My Religion and the epic closing track Record Ender, this is where Iero and his band’s abilities as musicians really shine through. You’d be forgiven for feeling whiplash from the sudden change in direction, but it’s the disparateness of the two halves of this EP that really make the whole thing come together as a cohesive whole. There’s potentially a case to be made that you could drop Losing My Religion from the tracklist and it wouldn’t change an awful lot – in fact if replaced with another original song it could even make for a better EP – but it’s a good song nonetheless and I certainly don’t begrudge the cover being included as a bridge from the brutality of Side A towards Side B’s climax.
If there’s one weakness to point out, it’s unfortunately Iero’s vocals. To clarify though, they’re not bad, and over time with the music I’ve become quite accustomed to them. What we have here is a set of really good songs written by a man who is clearly an exceptional musician, but whom is unfortunately not blessed with the best singing voice in the world (I’d hope this isn’t news to him and that he would willingly acknowledge this himself too). His lyrics are superb, but through his whine it’s at times difficult to fully make out what is being sung, and I’ve been unable to shake the feeling that with a better vocalist, these songs could be absolute world-enders.
On the whole though, this is a very good EP that I could see revisiting frequently throughout 2021. The 3 original songs are all great, with Record Ender especially being an absolute triumph. The R.E.M. cover is also really good, albeit maybe not as vital to the formula. If you’re a fan of any of Iero’s previous projects, you’ll have a good time with this, and if you’ve never listened to any of his stuff before, at 17 minutes long I think it’s well worth your time to check out.