Finding balance in my life is not something I’m all that great at achieving. I can be a constant ball of anxiety, wondering if any weird thing going on with my body is something that spells doom, and calming down and collecting facts often go by the wayside for an old-fashioned panic attack. It’s a good time.
For the longest time, my wife has suggested I try yoga. Let me warn you there isn’t some happy ending bow tied to this one as I have yet to actually go into a public setting and try this. I have a hard enough time eating in public much less stretching out and letting myself be vulnerable in a physical setting. That said, the closest I’ve ever come to doing this has been with Black Yo)))ga, a project started by Kimee Massie, a 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher-certified instructor, her musician husband Scott (who also helms Pittsburgh label Innervenus), and their friend Chad Hammitt. For years, you could see flyers for their sessions all over Pittsburgh, at record stores, on coffee shop windows, you name it. The venues would change, but their unique program, that used drone, doom, and stoner metal, continued to spread and gain wide acceptance locally. Now, they’re taking Black Yo)))ga to the world with the release of “Asanas Ritual, Vol. 1,” a CD/DVD package that contains an hour-long instructional class session, as well as their own soundtrack created by a collective of local musicians.
I’m going to concentrate more on the musical aspect here, as I noted I’m bereft of yoga knowledge, but no doubt the DVD portion is a great help to people like me whose social anxiety may get the best of them and rob them of an experience such as this. This lets you unwind without the pressure of other people, learn the process, and make as many mistakes as you need to in the comfort of your own home. Only the dog will be there to laugh at me! Plus, the music is something that helps connect with those of us with darker personality complexions who find more relaxation and connection with dark, pulsating sounds. I literally find bands such as Sunn 0))), Sleep, and Nadja incredibly relaxing, so this makes all the sense in the world to me. But this effort also seeks to help those struggling with addiction, anxiety, PTSD, dark passengers, phobia, etc. in order to help these people cope and make more of their lives.
As for the music, Scott Massie (you also may know him from Storm King), Hammitt, and a collection of musicians from bands such as Hero Destroyed, Agnes Wired for Sound, Vulture, Torrential Bleeding, Moonstation Burning, Complete Failure, and a ton more grouped together to create the soundtrack to go along with the yoga instruction. The music is full of dark ambiance, doom drone, mystical chants, and all sort of foggy corners designed to get inside your veins, work their way to the burning spots, and help you reach beyond your turmoil. I’ve used the soundtrack itself to help me gather myself or simply meditate during bouts of panic, and it has worked perfectly. Hell, even if you don’t want to do the yoga portion, the music itself is rumbling and evocative, and a really strong collection that hopefully paves the way for more creations for any future installments of Black Yo)))ga.
“A Wandering Through” begins the music, with static and noises rising, chattering swimming underneath, and strings cutting through. I kept imagine sailing on dark waters, with nothing but storm clouds ahead but feeling oddly at ease. Melodies slip into the scene, drone chants emerge, and guitars open up, with strings continuing to scrape and this flowing into “The Dark Places in Our Lives.” Stomps echo at the start, with guitars looping inward, and the pace righteously plodding along. Chimes punctuate the end of each musical thought, while the accumulating melodies roll ahead with the strings following. Everything flows ideally, with dark cries reaching out, sounds swirling, and the end bleeding into “Carmentis,” where the vocal calls continue. Guitars and bass begin to bubble and scorch, with noise snaking through, and a compelling passage takes you into a liquid-filled, spacey section. Creaky moans and gasps poke, with the wordless wails stretching, and the glistening music going right into “Hungry Ghosts” that starts with echoes and waves crashing. The sounds are chilling, with the guitars mimicking birds chirping (or I’m imagining that), the strings pattering, and mist rising, along with a threatening cloud of noise.
“Negative Confession” charges up, with drums cascading and the noise getting bigger and more gargantuan. Screams simmer, while darkness and morbidity rise up, making itself into a strange beast you stare down as you head right into “Lament,” where soulful, heartfelt singing wells up and bursts. As the song builds, the doom bottom drops out, the feral cries build in intensity, and the rising storm bears down, mauling away and challenging you. The riffs that emerge are episodic, as the noise boils and spills over into the piece’s longest track “Nest of Thorns” that runs a healthy 14:20. The start is gentle but ominous, with the deliberately paced music figuring out its way and the guitars taking on a satisfying, exploratory, psychedelic wash. Things get trippy and then throbbing, as it continues to move your emotions and then feed you a thick drone. The drums start to splatter, and this mixes into the final movement “Loophole in the Universe,” where noise sizzles, wooshes cool your skin, and what sounds like alien sirens begin reaching out. It feels like spaceship exhaust is enveloping you, with thick and penetrating tones having their way, while the piece rings out in silence. By the way there also are edited versions of “Carmentis” and “Negative Confession” available only on the digital release.
Black Yo)))ga has become a large part of the Pittsburgh metal scene, and it’s great to see this project branch out so that it can touch the lives of people all around the world. The commitment the Massies and Hammitt have made to this effort is admirable, and they have put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into Black Yo)))ga to get it where it is today. This is a worthwhile addition to your life if you could use some relaxation, a chance to branch out, or some soothing influences if you struggle with you own darkness. And the other great thing about “Asanas Ritual, Vol. 1” is if you struggle with social anxiety like I do, you can take advantage of this in your own home first before you join the group at one of their events.
Speaking of which, if you’re in Pittsburgh tonight, there is a release party for “Asanas Ritual, Vol. 1” from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at Union Project, 801 North Negley Ave., Pittsburgh. Bring your own mat!
For more on the release party, go here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1613061185612192/
For more on the project, go here: http://www.black-yoga.com/
To buy the album, go here: http://www.screamingcrow.com/shop/55-black-yo-ga
Or here: http://blackyoga.storenvy.com/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.screamingcrow.com/