Exercise has struck fear into my heart ever since I coughed up blood on a particularly gruelling cross-country run alongside the litter-strewn banks of the A10 during my first week of secondary school. I’ve keenly and successfully avoided it ever since, but after deciding I’d quite like to walk up the stairs at Dalston Kingsland station without stopping halfway for a breather, I’ve been experimenting with working out to a soundtrack of doom metal. For those unfamiliar with the genre, it’s a particularly sonorous and decidedly slow-tempo offshoot of heavy metal; think Black Sabbath after a massive, carb-heavy Sunday roast.
Doom metal yoga then, involves gathering in a candlelit room in east London in which everyone is wearing black and then spending the next hour and a half stretching and sweating to gloriously intense music by bands called things like Earth, Bong, Shape Of Despair and Mournful Congregation. Fitness First it is not.
After the sessions I don’t just feel healthier and more flexible; I also feel way more chilled out and it’s not just because I’ve been getting to grips with an ancient spiritual practice. There’s something about the music, a meaty sound that envelops you like a big, fat sonic duvet, which helps you properly relax and stop freaking out about the fact that you saw a mouse in your bedroom last night and are now panicking about the possibility that it might get into bed with you and somehow nibble your nose off when you’re sleeping (insert your own personal anxiety trigger here).
Doom metal isn’t the only music that I’ve been sinking into recently to help myself be that little bit more zen. Last week I went to see Bon Iver play their wondrous new album, ‘22, A Million’, at a special show in the breezy courtyard of the Michelberger Hotel in Berlin. Live, the record’s extended instrumental moments became almost like a meditation, offering an artful backdrop to let your mind drift off and head toward a place where you can stop worrying about that bloody mouse. Then, over the weekend, I found myself watching Texan ambient act Stars Of The Lid at London’s Barbican. Performing with a string ensemble and a hairy man twiddling the knobs on a mammoth Moog 55 Modular Synthesizer, their droning, minor chord-laden symphonies – and the super-vibey light show projected onto the back of the hall – made me simultaneously come over all emotional and feel like I was at one with the universe. Here’s to the power of loud, potent music – for not just getting my body moving, but for giving my mind a workout too.
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