Benjamin Franklin famously said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” This April 15, those inevitable forces will arrive in unison, as tax day will be chased with a dour dose of death. Heat Death started last summer as the side project of Ken Sabbar (The Violet Hour, Dawn Of Man), who recorded a solo EP. By summer’s end, the project tacked on two more Dawn Of Man, um…men and turned into a full-fledged band. This February, the trio retreated to a Philips, Wisconsin vacation home and spent six days self-recording and mixing a nine-pack of droned-out and downtrodden numbers, jokingly dubbed 9 Steps To A Happier Life.
The album picks up where last year’s Obsolescence EP left off, even down to featuring re-worked versions of three of the release’s songs. The synth-y instrumental starter “Mammals,” in all its ominous electronic glory, wouldn’t be out of place as part of the scores in It Follows or Turbo Kid. Sabbar’s vocals eventually kick in to detail the drudgery of domestic trappings in a tightened reprisal of “Obsolescence” and the acceptance of seclusion in both the ironically named “People Person” and “Trauma In The Bounce House.” While unflinchingly bleak throughout, 9 Steps manages to make altogether dreary songs—just try to make it through the pickup lines in “Ghosted” without wincing, guys—tote a certain inimitable subversive appeal, which is perfectly expressed in the chaotic waltz of “The Pageant.”
No, Heat Death’s latest probably isn’t the secret to a happier life. Rather, 9 Steps To A Happier Life is a collection of life’s more sour notes that have been distorted, amplified, and reassembled into something sweet. Before Heat Death releases 9 Steps To A Happier Life at Cactus Club (with Piles, Dream Vacation, and Pink Trilliums) on Friday, April 15, listen to the album in its entirety now, only at Milwaukee Record.