Invoke the Shadow of Doom

Yesterday, I finally posted my forging project from class on Etsy (seen here). I have trouble coming up with projects on the spot, so a classroom setting ended up being a little awkward for me. It didn’t help that the curriculum was scattered; we not only didn’t stick to the schedule, we ended up not even completing some of the projects. All told, it was an expensive and somewhat disappointing experience, but it is what started me off in metalwork–a facet of jewelry making that allows for much more expression than simple beading or wire wrap. One that allows for inspiration from any source.

My fallback in awkward situations has always been music. I used it in middle school to psych myself up for another day among bullies and still-tentative friends, escaped in it back home with my temperamental drunk of a stepfather (cliche, I know), and lulled myself to sleep with it when nothing else would silence my rampant thoughts. It’s also served as inspiration for stories, sketches, any number of creative ventures.

So when called upon to draw up designs I could transfer to metal, I obviously immediately panicked, made up some excuse, and bolted outside for some nicotine therapy. While sucking down a death stick, my brain radio started up with some Dax Riggs.

I’d been following his music since I’d found out as a little gothy kid (I can explain: abuse and the early stages of manic depression, which from twelve to fourteen manifested as just plain depression) that a band called Acid Bath was a thing. It was dark, sludgy metal with crazy lyrics, but the vocals were very different from any other harder forms of rock I’d heard. At times, Dax’s voice was a caustic roar, and others a grimy, haunting warble. It was melodic metal, if you can believe it. I fell madly in love with the juxtaposition of the screaming guitars and rich, beautiful voice and the darkly poetic lyrics (which is why I later moved on to symphonic metal). Then I found out that the band had broken up after two albums.

Devastated, I sought out other projects by the band members. The guitarist had gone on to form Goatwhore (erm…), but the vocalist I had been so captivated by was making a different sort of music altogether. It wasn’t until many years later, when my tastes began to branch out, that I revisited Dax’s later bodies of work.

One of his songs–the one that played in my head the day I drew up the hand–had about the most metal-sounding name you could imagine, though it is a soft, mesmerizing song: “I Hear Satan”. A closer look at the lyrics reveals that, rather than a schizophrenic hallucination, the song centers around the desolation of war. It seems to be neither supporting nor denigrating, simply commenting:

“Invoke the shadow of doom
Hold onto your black balloon
There is no flower in bloom
Ghost formed in death town
Blood, kings, and clowns
Dancing in the ashes of the moon

I hear Satan

I hear Satan in the basement of the Pentagon”

The first line was what inspired the hand. After hastily tossing my short once I had a clear idea of what my design was to be, I ran inside to sketch. I wanted a hand for the ‘invocation’ and the colors of war for decoration–irridescent red for fire and silvery dark gray for smoke. I wanted a hand calling the blood and darkness of war into existence, but also as a stop sign of sorts to express the sentiment that I felt ran beneath the song.

Deb, our instructor and the owner of the shop, cut a length of sterling silver wire and one of copper, and I set to work. I formed the hand, botched it the first time, straightened it out with a pair of nylon-covered flatnose pliers, and re-formed it. Then I cut up the copper wire and formed the spirals for the fingertips and a design for the palm. I soldered the silver wire to itself at the bottom of the palm, then soldered each copper design in place. I hammered the wire flat, textured it, and cut another length of wire to wrap the crystals I had painstakingly picked from the Swarovski rack in the store.

I packed up the piece for a show after making a bail from a bit of silver filled wire and stringing the pendant on some leather cording. Upon unpacking, I realized the damn thing had split at the solder point on the bottom of the palm. So it was back to the soldering board to fix it, then to the hammer again, then to sandpaper to remove the flux residue. Finally, it was finished, it was strong, and it was glittering and gorgeous.

But most importantly, it conveyed my message perfectly: beauty from pain. Beauty from ugliness. Beauty even in cruelty. An invocation and a supplication in one. Emotion and poetry in one darkly glimmering image. I had found another art, one of many muses, and my creative side long-buried beneath years of horrors.

All through metal.

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