The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 11.2

February 8, 2008

"There is truth deep down inside of you that has been waiting
for you to discover it, and that Truth is this: you deserve all
good things life has to offer. You know that inherently, because
you feel awful when you are experiencing the lack of good things.
All good things are your birthright!"

- The Secret (2007), 41 weeks in top the five
NY Times Hardcore Advice List

"Deregulation has annihilated the credibility of US markets.
There is no oversight; it's the Wild West. The assets are falsely
represented, the ratings are meaningless, and there's a clear
intention to deceive. That means that the stewardship of the
global economic system is no longer in good hands."

- Mike Whitney

Dreams become nightmares. That is the theme echoed in many Fireaxe works and which now appears to be taking shape in the world today on a grand scale. The two quotes above frame the path from dream to disaster, the first being a seemingly benign validation of one's inner desires and the second observing how unfettered desires can go horribly awry. When so many dream of great wealth one cannot expect mere laws to stand in the way of the masses and what they believe to be their birthright. Pride goeth before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

In truth, "The Secret" is hardly that, since an individual's right to accumulate wealth is encoded in the tenets of capitalism, but for many people such notions as modesty, restraint, and discipline stand in the way of the pursuit of their desires. For them, a semi-plausible mystic history of a commonly known self brainwashing technique is sufficient to allow them to rationalize putting one's self ahead of all other things. Of course, "The Secret" is about more than just attaining wealth, but no matter what one's desires may be the effects of accepting this way of thinking are the same. When you get what you desire you feel good, for a while, and when you do not get what you desire you feel bad. This is a recipe for psychological addiction if the good feelings you get from success are strong enough and are reinforced at reasonable intervals. Before long you're anxious and irritable most of the time, you become focused solely on yourself and your goals, and you can't wait to get your next fix. This is bad enough for individuals, but when the world is awash in people addicted to gaining wealth it is easy to see why there is such irrationality in the markets and why we are subject to the incessant growth and bursting of financial bubbles.

One cannot blame the current economic crisis on a phenomenon like "The Secret", given its recent emergence in its current form, but the notion deserves attention for capturing the essence of the roots of the problem so well. Everyone has dreams, but there is a large difference between a flight of fancy and the notion that one is entitled to one's dream. The former is for pleasure while the latter has the potential for serious consequences. "The Secret" places full responsibility for success and failure on the individual, not on external circumstances, which greatly raises the stakes in terms of psychological rewards and punishments and thus makes it that much more addictive. In essence, you are responsible for everything bad that happens to you and being a success isn't just what you could be but what you should be. The pressure is intense, but that just makes the taste of success that much more sweet. And as you achieve success, not only is the idea that you can achieve your dreams reinforced, but also that the methods that you are using are right and true and good.

There are downsides to this way of thinking, the first of which is obviously that it is highly ego-centric and will tend to turn people into self-absorbed a-holes. Beyond that, the flipside of the belief that everyone is responsible for their own success is the belief that everyone who is not successful has obviously done something wrong. This kind of thinking will tend to make people less sensitive to the plights of others. Why help someone else out? Haven't they gotten what they deserved? You don't need to bother asking how someone got to be where they are, you can just assume that it was the result of their character whether that is correct or not. And most importantly, systems like capitalism require rules and regulations and need people to follow those rules. Without rules and obedience there is no system, but egocentric thinking will invariably put the individual's needs in conflict with the system. And while some can restrain their desires and stay within the rules, many will choose to put their desires first, sowing the seeds of the system's eventual destruction. Of course, one must mention Ayn Rand's concept of "self-interest rightly understood" in this context and point out that if a person understands that their desires can only be obtained if the system remains intact then they will always tend to act ethically. The problem with that line of thought is that systems do not collapse at the first sign of unethical trespass, so the ones who break the rules will succeed at the expense of those who don't for a substantial period of time which reinforces rule-breaking and punishes ethical behavior. Over time, cheating will become the necessary norm for survival in the system and in many cases, the corruption of the system needs to reach epic proportions before instability becomes a problem. By that time all the honest players will have lost out or joined the ranks of the cheaters. Nice guys do finish last.

The true "secret" isn't teaching people a long lost method for achieving their dreams, it's telling people what they want to hear. The success of "The Secret" is testament to that. In that way too the method captures the roots of the problem of capitalism, that what sells the best in the marketplace isn't necessarily what's best for the consumers. Even if it worked perfectly, a world full of self-absorbed, goal-obsessed, egotists is not one that I want to live in. But it doesn't work perfectly, and so we will live in that world for a while until a catastrophe occurs. Then we'll live in a world where nobody gets what they want and everyone is depressed and blames everyone else.

We're five months into what I think, and dread, is the most colossal crash in financial history and it is looking more and more like a train wreck in slow motion with every passing day. The first passenger car, loaded with sub-prime borrowers, has plowed into the locomotive, which has a seized-up engine and is screeching to a halt. The next car looks to be loaded with people with pensions, investments, and who recently purchased houses and they are starting to feel the impact. To make things worse there is a long train of cars lined up behind them and closing in at high speed. So if you haven't started doing so already, walking briskly towards the back of the train is not a bad idea.

Speaking of things which are not a bad idea, ordering your copy of the new Fireaxe CD "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess" is a good way to trade your soon to be worthless dollars for something of lasting value. The new CD looks great, sounds great, and is pressed, not burned, so it is going to last a long, long time. In case you missed the news, the new CD has been released. If you want one send me an e-mail and if you have a PayPal account you can now pay for it that way.

A big ‘Hello’ to anyone receiving the Burning Blade for the first time. This is the Fireaxe newsletter.

The Meaning of the Songs - I Used to Be Young

Like most Fireaxe works, "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess" is steeped in meaning with a number of recurring themes woven in and out of the individual tracks. I strive to make listening to Fireaxe not only interesting on a musical level but on emotional and intellectual levels as well. Thus my CDs tend to end up packed with insightful passages which can be difficult to figure out and pieced together into a cohesive whole. Part of that is because the content is very cerebral and part of that is because I am simply a weird individual with an unusual view of the world. So I feel the need to explain some of the weirdness in the CD as well as unearth some of the more profound themes. I'll be discussing all the tracks in turn in The Burning Blade over the coming year, but also feel free to e-mail me questions about things in the CD which you might be finding hard to understand, like what the heck is F.U.D. all about?

First, a disclaimer. "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess" is a very dark CD and the protagonist can hardly be called heroic. I wouldn't even call him a "dark hero" since he doesn't fit the stereo- typical image of someone with character flaws or a troubled past who fights the good fight anyway. I don't consider him to be a role model in any form. In the story the protagonist does a great number of cruel, violent, and despicable things, often described in vivid detail and accompanied by intense emotional content in the music and lyrics. I tried to make the scenes and emotions as realistic as possible and I fear that I might have made them a little too realistic causing some of you to think that perhaps I had done or at least wanted to do some of the horrible things that the protagonist does in the story. The simple answer is no to both questions. The more complicated one is that while the protagonist and I are quite similar, we are like two people who came to a crossroads and chose different paths. He chose the path to great wealth and power no matter what the cost and I chose to pursue more aesthetic way of life. Thus I can relate to him and imagine what he would do and how he would feel placed in certain situations without needing to have personal experience in those areas. I am a genuinely nice guy. I don't participate in cut-throat capitalism, I don't try to destroy those who have wronged me in some way, and a have never, ever mistreated or abused any woman in any way. Every part of the story is completely fictional including "My Angel" in its entirety. Sadly enough, even the sweet, romantic parts of that song, full of love and hope, are ones that I am not personally familiar with. Sigh. Now, on with the descriptions of the tracks.

"I Used to be Young" starts quietly, with the protagonist lamenting the loss of his youth, his strength, and all the good things that he once had. In an instant these feelings are contrasted with his current state of mind, one of an intense desire for revenge against all those who wronged him, as the music shifts sharply from calm and lyrical to powerful and intense. Here he wishes the attentions of the Dark Goddess, the personification of death, to wreak her havoc upon his enemies, granting them mercy by snuffing out their lives. Then the music becomes calm once more and in the second set of verses the protagonist continues his laments with the loss of his innocence. This is perhaps what he misses the most, as he recounts his hopes and dreams which have become a litany of broken promises. Those feelings are contrasted against the betrayal and despair that he felt as his naivety was exploited and his essence was drained out of him. Here he wishes the attentions of the Dark Goddess upon himself to take him away from an existence where nothing more awaits him but further pain and suffering. In the last part of the first half of the song he relates the following passage:

"I always knew it would come to this.
Subversion is what I do best.
I used to fear what is to come,
But now it only brings me peace."

This asks a number of questions, such as how did he come to be this way, what is going to happen next, and why doesn't he fear it anymore. These questions are answered over the course of the CD, foreshadowing the epic ending. The quote also mirrors feelings that I have had personally. In the back of my mind I have always felt that at some point down the line I will be called to account for my refusal to bow to authority. Maybe some of you feel that was as well. I'm not sure where it comes from, but I'm sure that a lot of us have had the experience of suffering at the hands of an authority figure who was obviously wrong and who perhaps even knew that he or she was wrong but could not concede the point. It's a transformational moment in your life, forcing you to decide between obedience to authority and standing up for the truth as you see it. This turns out to be the critical difference between the protagonist and the antagonist as is later revealed in "My Reflection", but I am getting ahead of myself. One thing that I'd like to add is that, like the protagonist, I'm pretty good at subversion, as this CD aptly demonstrates. I feel that it is the most subversive and ideologically corrosive Fireaxe CD of them all.

In the above quote, the protagonist also mentions that he fears what is to come and in the second half of the track, we find out what that is. I was torn between splitting this track into two tracks or keeping it as a single one. I feel that it would have worked fine both ways, and that as two tracks the first one becomes short enough to be a good candidate for airplay. However, the flow between the two parts seemed to make them inseparable and so I put them together into one track. I know that it breaks with the Fireaxe tradition of having ten tracks on a CD like "A Dream of Death" and "Lovecraftian Nightmares" do, but I was having trouble coming up with a good name for the second half as a separate track and so that turned out to be the deciding factor to keep them together as one.

One thing that I regret about the CD is that between the time that I finalized the storyline in mid-2004 and the time that I finished recording it, the topic of torture has been figuratively, if not literally, done to death in a lot of different genres. In the last few years stories about torture have been popping up all over the place. Add to that the number movies about theocratic police states that have been made recently and the end is result is that Fireaxe has ended up behind the curve. Bummer. The ideas were fresh when they went into the plot, but today they seem somewhat stale. However, I feel that the perspective that I take in "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess" is different enough from the typical one portrayed in other works so that the power and meaning of the CD is not eroded by the fact that some of its themes have been overdone, and not just in fiction. I wrote the line about the "secret crimes of state" in "a place that does not exist" before it became public that my country was doing that very thing in "black sites" across eastern Europe while liberal western European countries were complicit in covering it all up. I favor my explanation for why such places exist (fear, paranoia, and cowardice in our leaders) rather than the common ones (our leaders secretly want to be dictators, and it's necessary to fight terrorism) and feel that the direction that I take on the subject breaks new ground.

In the second half of "I Used to be Young", the torture begins. Here I used the music to portray the two extremes of imprisonment in an interrogation facility: empty, dread-filled loneliness; and overwhelming pressure and force. The protagonist describes the instruments of torture in agonizing detail as his voice is backed by a pair of bass guitars and scant drumming in some of the parts while lead and solo guitars drive home the madness accompanied by a chorus of screams and the shouting of interrogators in other parts. Back and forth the song goes from quietness and dread to thunder and chaos, similar to how modern interrogation methods are practiced, until we get to the following passage:

"When they tear into my mind, they will choke on what they find.
And when they stare into my eyes, what they see will make them blind."

This is perhaps the ultimate fantasy of anyone who has ever been tortured, perhaps even more than the fantasy about being set free. How satisfying would it be to wreak revenge upon one's tormentors? In such an environment you are completely powerless and at the mercy of your captors, and no part of you, not even your inner thoughts, will remain truly yours when all is said and done. You will end up broken to pieces, mentally more than physically, and at that point you will never be truly free even if they let you go. However, for the protagonist there is no value in being set free as he has no life left to go back to. He has only one purpose left in his life, to destroy that which has destroyed him, so he desperately holds on, waiting for the right time to deliver his message and have his revenge. This thought brings him peace and as the song draws to a close the music explodes into a soaring chorus of guitars with wild rhythms and thick harmonies merged together with pounding bass and drums. Does he hold on and have his revenge? We find out in later tracks.

I really like "I Used to be Young" as an opening track. It does a great job of setting the table, both thematically and musically, for the rest of the CD, leaving no doubt that this will be another epic Fireaxe production. From quiet vocal and keyboard passages to thunderous guitars and drums to scintillating harmonic solos the track seems to have it all, well, save for a part with a fast, driving rhythm. But you don't have to wait long to get that as that is what the second track is all about.

Thematically, the track sets the stage for what will be a blistering attack on some of the more pervasive ideologies of our modern world. The first one to come under fire is the one commonly known as "The American Dream", which has helped to spread capitalism across the globe, where through hard work and perseverance one will achieve greatness, find love, and live the good life. Those are the naïve hopes and dreams of the protagonist whose destruction he bemoans in the opening verses. In the following tracks I show how ideological corruption has destroyed the American Dream and how it will destroy the protagonist as well, leaving him nothing more than the sum total of his hatred and desire for revenge. No, the protagonist is not a hero, nor is he ever intended to be. He is the product of warring ideologies, driven by fantastic promises and great dreams, cut, disfigured, and twisted by corruption and lies, and transformed into a weapon by a desire to destroy those ideologies, which, oddly enough, stems from a sense of justice found in almost all ideologies. The ugliness of the protagonist is merely a reflection of that which made him, the ideologies of the modern world. Look upon him, if you dare. You might not like what you see. In fact, you might see parts of yourself reflected in his angry stare.

The Fireaxe theory - Outline

I. Basics - well established theories

  • 1. Emergent systems - that complex systems can arise from the interactions of simple things
  • 2. Natural selection - that organisms mutate, proliferate, and compete, with the "losers" becoming extinct
  • 3. Behavioral science - that neurological systems, at their core, function according to the rules of conditioning
  • 4. Entropy - that within a closed system, entropy always increases, which limits the amount of transformation that can occur

II. Extensions

  • 1. That consciousness is an emergent system: a complex system arising in the human mind from the interaction of simple neurons.
  • 2. That civilizations are emergent systems arising from the physical interactions of humans whether conscious or not.
  • 3. That ideologies are emergent systems arising from the psychological interactions of conscious humans
  • 4. That emergent systems follow the laws of natural selection in much the same way that organisms do
  • 5. That the universe is, by definition, a closed system

III. Contentions regarding consciousness

  • 1. That consciousness is a survival advantage
  • 2. That being a member of an ideology is a survival advantage
  • 3. That making its members conscious is a necessary part of an ideology's survival
  • 4. That consciousness is created by instilling within a person a permanent sense of inadequacy - in essence a state of constant fear
  • 5. That the deeper the sense of inadequacy, the stronger the person is motivated - generally to serve their ideology

IV. Contentions regarding ideological struggle

  • 1. That ideologies fight for survival using many methods including, but not limited to, war and enslavement
  • 2. That aggression is a survival advantage
  • 3. That aggressive ideologies make members of rival ideologies feel afraid and inadequate which in response become more aggressive, thus creating a vicious circle
  • 4. That aggressive ideologies must continue to grow or face internal strife as their aggressive members will feed on each other to satisfy their needs
  • 5. That internal struggle results in ideological mutation

V. Contentions regarding the future

  • 1. That internal strife is inevitable since the laws of entropy imply that continuous growth is not sustainable
  • 2. That the abstract bases for ideologies transcend mortality and thus suicidal aggression is not restrained by fear of death
  • 3. That ideological mutation will eventually result in the creation of a suicidal ideology which will attempt to save the human race by destroying it

How to order Fireaxe CDs

Ordering Fireaxe CD's is an informal process as I am selling them personally out of my apartment. Simply mail me a letter which contains the following:

  • 1. The names of the CDs that you want to buy.
  • 2. The address where you want the CDs sent.
  • 3. Cash, a check, or a money order for the total cost.

Or if you want to do PayPal, just send me the answers to 1 and 2 above in an e-mail and I'll tell you where to send the money.

Here is a price list. The first number is the cost for U.S. based customers, the second is for outside the U.S. The prices include shipping and handling.

Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess: $6 / $8
Food for the Gods: $12 / $14 - 1 copy left
Victory or Death: $5 / $7
Lovecraftian Nightmares: $5 / $7 (SOLD OUT)
A Dream of Death: $3 / $5 (SOLD OUT)

Send everything to:

Brian Voth
1301 Medical Center Dr. #415
Chula Vista, CA, 91911 USA

If you review CDs on a website or in a magazine, any one of the single CDs (Not "Food for the Gods") is free of charge in exchange for the review. In this case all I need is a request by e-mail. Please send me the URL of your review site or copy of your magazine with the review in it when it is done. If you want to exchange CDs, tapes, or stuff of equivalent value, make these requests via e-mail and we'll arrange a trade.

The CDs come with a booklet filled with awesome art, a letter about the project, and some information about the CD which can also be found on the Fireaxe site.

Lastly, if you want to print and distribute Fireaxe CDs I can send you an additional CD which contains tiff files for all the booklets, tray cards, and labels for each project. The tiff disk is free so just say the word.

The Future

In 2008, Fireaxe will take a step back and work on a couple of projects from the past. First of all, "Food for the Gods" has sold out and will be re-mastered before a second printing run is made. Also, it may also be re-mixed for even better sound quality depending on time constraints. Secondly, the first Fireaxe CD, "A Dream of Death" will be getting a complete overhaul before it is re-released. Everything will be re-recorded using much more modern equipment and with everything that I've learned over the last ten years going into it to make it better than ever. Also, since it was recorded at a time when CDs had a 74 minute limit instead of the current eighty, I will add six more minutes of music to the work in which I will explore a number of musical themes and make the CD that much better. So it looks like a year of sequels for Fireaxe. I'll probably leave the names the same but I've been kicking around a few new ideas for the CDs, such as "Food for the Gods - Regurgitated", "Desert for the Gods", and "A Dream of Undeath", "The Morning After Death", or "I'm Dreaming of a White Strait-Jacket - a Fireaxe Christmas in Hell".

My goal is to deliver music to whoever wants to hear it in whatever way is necessary. Whatever the market demands, I will supply, but I do want to avoid the mass marketing channel. Exposure is fine, but in the modern business, the substance of the music must be altered to match the demands of the marketplace. This would totally defeat the purpose of why I write music in the first place. I write music because it is a way to express my emotions. What I both think and feel goes into the songs. That is the power, Fireaxe is the channel, and any diversion diminishes the emotive effect. Thus I try to avoid such diversions. That is how art should be.

Rights to duplicate Fireaxe materials

Currently Fireaxe is not for profit. I sell the single CDs for $5 or $6, $12 for "Food for the Gods" since it is three CDs, which covers the production and mailing costs. For CDs sent out of the country, I'll have to charge an extra $2 per disk to cover the additional mailing cost. If you write reviews or put samples on your website I'll give you a CD for free. Since I am not making any money with the current recordings, you are free to make duplicates of them to distribute as long as you obey the following guidelines:

  • 1. You can only sell the duplications for the price of the medium or less, plus any delivery cost. You are not allowed to make any profit with the music.
  • 2. You should tell me how many copies you gave out and who got them so I can keep track. Also, if they have an e-mail address I'd like that as well so I can add them to the mailing list.
  • 3. You are likewise free to adorn any webpages or duplications with the gifs and jpgs on my website as long as you include an obvious link back to my website. This includes putting Fireaxe song samples on your site as well.
  • 4. You are free to play any Fireaxe songs (in unaltered form) provided you are an unsigned band without a marketting tie-in. You are not allowed to record those songs onto anything that you will sell.
  • 5. Do not fall in love with the Dark Goddess. I mean, seriously. She's the goddess of death after all. It's not a good idea. Furthermore, do not have sexual fantasies involving the Dark Goddess. She does not have a womb and thus lacks the entrance to that particular organ. Also, attempting to use other entrances will likely result in castration. Again, it's not a good idea.
  • 6. You are vehemently discouraged from doing anything depicted in the CD "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess" such as: torturing someone, lying for corporate profit, rationalizing greed, beating, raping, and murdering your girlfriend, destroying the lives of those who've wronged you and their families, corrupting the government, trying to kill yourself with pleasure, kidnapping and ransoming people, committing atrocities, cutting someone's face to pieces, destroying half the world as revenge, and especially stating that any of these things are okay because "God is on your side." Please, think before you act.
  • 7. You are food for the gods.
  • 8. You are required to crank the song "Hounds of Tindalos" as loud as you can as often as you can. It's your only defense against THEM. Be warned, they come through angles. Note that the CD is round. Are your speaker cabinets square?
  • 9. Cthulhu, the Necronomicon, Hastur the Unspeakable, and all other mythos creatures are purely the inventions of Lovecraft and other fiction authors. None of it is real, at least that's what I'm going to say in court if you try to sue me for destruction of your property, house, city, or soul as a result of listening to the "Lovecraftian Nightmares" CD too much.
  • 10. You are free to play "The Rack" in school or church or any other institution bent on crushing your will and turning you into a mindless zombie slave of the corporate dominated world. Try not to develop a bad attitude about it.
  • 11. You are not free to commit suicide while listening to any Fireaxe song. I'm sorry, I'll have to prosecute. On a serious note, if you are thinking about doing it, please e-mail or call me if you have no one else to talk to. When I was in my teens the album "The Wall" by Pink Floyd used to really get to me. Just hearing songs like "Comfortably Numb", and "Hey You" would get me pretty depressed and mildly suicidal. I'm just trying to say that I've been there. If my music is having that effect on you, please get in touch. You aren't alone.

The gist of it is that you can do just about anything with the music as long as you don't profit from it and that I get some sort of credit for having written it. I'm open to any methods of distributing my music, such as compilation tapes or CDs, radio play, or recording label distribution. However, you will need my direct permission to do so or some kind of legal agreement.
Brian Voth - Creator of Fireaxe

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