Recommissioned War/Junk Metal (series: Prophetic Noise Vignettes, part 2)

Isaiah 2:1-4

by Dave Skipper

Junk Metal

Junk metal.

Twisted iron. Abandoned warehouses. Discarded appliances. Obsolete parts.

Gutted buildings. Rusty nails. Overgrown wreckage. Isolated shards.

Old oil drums. Unused girders. Mangled pipes. Loose screws.

Unknown fixtures. Exploded tanks. Sunken ships. Barbed wire.

Joyridden cars. Superseded equipment. Hidden weaponry. Ancient knives.

Industrial memories. Broken machines. Surplus nails. Encrusted springs.

Fractured armour. Expansive scrapyards. Wrecking-ball consequences. Rigid gears.

Desolate machinery. Leaking batteries. Throwaway trinkets. Corrosive scars.

Disintegrating apparatus. Blunt razors. Sharp fragments. Deadly spikes.

Silver as moonlight, brown as filth, black as night.

Junk metal.

Enablers of carnage. Fruits of destruction. Hatred of humanity. Enslavement of the weak.

Exploitation of nature. Waste of resources. Destruction of creation. Stifling of life.

Futility of progress. Ravages of time. Pointlessness of life. Inevitability of death.

Curse of war and hate.

Junk metal.

Powerful symbols of dystopia’s decay?

Pointed statements of industrialisation’s harsh exploits?

Serrated protests against the machinations of violence and war?

Stark expressions of humanity’s inhumanity?

Should junk metal just rust in peace?

Junk metal.

Banging, scraping, shaking, grinding.

Striking, smashing, thrashing, throwing.

Oil drums and rods, springs and chains, screws and shaker boxes, rattling cages and floating rods, brought to life by contact mics and Metal Zone guitar pedals.

Industrial music smashing lashings of percussive bashings and potent lo-fi throbbings, pounding the ears and brain with relentless yet playful weight.

Found sound and field recordings from the everyday to the obscure, capturing jagged dynamics as objects are caressed and manhandled every which way.

Cut-up harsh noise slashing in a frenzy of amplified havoc, extreme splinters of ice-cold crunch and bone-melting grit tearing the air apart like a deranged roboctopus.

Junk metal: brutal sounds of abused metallic materials yield fruitful avenues for off-the-edge sonic explorers.

War Metal

Let’s step back in time to the genuine brutality of ancient and medieval warfare. The chopping and slicing of sword, axe, and spear made the melee a horrific corporate exercise in butchery and torture. And before armies collided or even marched, the piercing din of the forger and blacksmith at work would have been the soundtrack to the impending bloodshed. The harsh crack of metal on metal cutting through the air from the smithy’s workshop was a pre-emptive taster of worse to come. Dread thickening the air, like the foreboding footsteps of a heartless iron monster. Akin to the modern-day air siren, fear would descend as the intensive uptake of sword-making activity would signal the inevitability of battle on the way. And then in the aftermath of war, the ringing would linger in the mind: any new works of steel, however benign, would surely recall those lucid memories of terror and the stench of death.

Then war metal turns to junk metal, disused even if not rusted, ready to be picked up again. Those who take no pleasure in war metal consider it as junk or at least wish it to be so. The bloodlust and pride of the warrior-minded sought and seek the glorification of the sword and the spoils of war, metal becoming a symbol of power and dominion. Junk metal remains the domain of the weak and the conquered, associated with the subjugation of the oppressible and the passing away of enemy kingdoms and empires. As then, so today. From swords to tanks to missiles, the metalwork of war requires the machinery and manpower of ever-increasing industry and technology at the hands of kings and presidents, leaving a trail of junk – and the obliteration of both man and machine – in its wake.

Is, then, the sound of junk metal destined always to be imbued with the lust for rust and/or the breath of death? Is there no hope for this bloodstained earth ever to be free from the struggle and turmoil of mass violence?

Prophetic Noise Vignette

But associations/connotations of noise types can devolve, evolve, and revolve around new fulcra. These words from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah proclaim a recommissioning of war/junk metal:

The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days

That the mountain of the LORD’s house

Shall be established on the top of the mountains,

And shall be exalted above the hills;

And all nations shall flow to it.

Many people shall come and say,

“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,

To the house of the God of Jacob;

He will teach us His ways,

And we shall walk in His paths.”

For out of Zion shall go forth the law,

And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between the nations,

And rebuke many people;

They shall beat their swords into plowshares,

And their spears into pruning hooks;

Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

Neither shall they learn war anymore.

‭Isaiah‬ ‭2:1-4

 

Weapons, metals, and the repercussions of war can be, nay will be,

repurposed,

reconfigured,

recycled,

reoriented,

rejuvenated,

recommissioned,

repurposed.

The clangorous beating of swords into plowshares will become the sonorous symphony of victory.

The threat of death will become the promise of life.

The reality of war will become the reality of peace.

Tyranny of all forms will be overthrown.

The killing purposes of metalwork, the suffering and exploitation it too often partakes in, will be decommissioned. War metal will become junk metal, a useless thing of the past. But beyond that, it will be recommissioned, the very weapons that wicked hands once wielded will be fashioned into tools of harvest and productivity and feasting. Working the land and enjoying its fruits, the perpetually nourishing meal of bread and wine will bind communities together for good. Full and good and deep delights for the ears, the stomach, and the heart – this is the destination that recommissioned junk metal will partake in. The noise of metallurgy – that din from the smithy’s workshop – along with all the scrapheaps and stockpiles of war metal and junk metal, will become the noise of celebration and a vital component of final panacea. Past memories will not be denied, but will be superseded and overridden.

Redemption.

Another text from later in the book of Isaiah springs to my mind:

Do not remember the former things,

Nor consider the things of old.

Behold, I will do a new thing,

Now it shall spring forth;

Shall you not know it?

I will even make a road in the wilderness

And rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:18-19

 

Junk Metal Revisited

History is littered with wars, with no end yet in sight. But while we long for a world in which junk metal denotes new life and new possibilities, new purpose can descend in part even now. Even today we can anticipate and participate in working towards that glorious eternal warless day. The final fulfillment of this prophecy won’t happen in a vacuum, though. It will require Jesus “judging between the nations, and rebuking many people.” The prophecy also clarifies that being on the right side of history involves desiring to “go up to the mountain of the LORD” and then “walking in His paths.” Choose wisely!

Junk metal.

Purpose and beauty emerging from the rust and ruin?

Unanticipated tool of redemption and reconciliation?

Symbol of genuine change and future hope?

Banging, scraping, shaking, grinding.

Striking, smashing, thrashing, throwing.

Old sounds for new ambitions.

New sounds for new horizons.

Noise revitalised with new energy.

Junk no more: noise for peace!

 

He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

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