The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 11.3

March 29, 2008

"In the past, financial collapses have played out over
months, not days, and generally take more than a year
to hit rock bottom. These descents are neither constant
nor gradual and over the period of the collapse a number
of false bottoms are reached where the markets turn
upwards and everything seems to be over. But after each
rebound comes another, deeper drop, followed by another
rebound and another drop. Over and over the process
repeats, punishing anyone who dares to invest in what
seem to be bargain basement deals, until finally equilibrium
is established once more. If the collapse has truly begun,
then the world will be a very different place a year from
now. Very different indeed."

- The Burning Blade 10.6

Twelve months ago the consensus was that the sub-prime problem was contained. Six months ago the consensus was that while the problem had grown that it was now contained and that a recession would be avoided. Today the fifth largest bank in the United States stands in ruin, a recession, if not a depression, is staring us in the face, and the global markets are thrashing around like epileptics on meth despite the best efforts of those in charge to bring stability to the global financial system. But once again the markets are responding to the latest shock treatments by the Federal Reserve and many are saying that the problems have finally been solved and that the crisis is over. Praise to Ishtar! Well, we've all heard that song and seen that dance before and some of us never bought into it in the first place. And when the Fed is using methods that it hadn't needed to use since the Great Depression it is definitely time to set aside one's faith in the powers that be. But it must be nice to be a true believer and never have to face a painful truth or admit that you were wrong. Willful ignorance is bliss.

It is comical, although in the dark sense, to watch the world's foremost financial experts attempt to solve the problem of a deflating credit bubble by adding yet more credit to the system, but that is exactly what they are doing. In this sense they are making the same mistakes as so many believers down through the centuries have made before them who never stopped to consider the idea that the truths that they held most dear were based on false assumptions. Yes, the madness all starts innocently enough, with a problem that is successfully solved by the gentle application of force, or some other taboo method which raises moral and ethical questions. But with success that method becomes less taboo and more acceptable and more likely to be used again when similar problems arise, which they inevitably do. Then comes the transition period, when the questionable method is used more frequently to snuff out problems that now occur increasingly more often and are more severe when they appear. Taboos are brushed aside and more force must be used each time in order to make the newer, bigger problems go away. Objections are often raised, but the success of the method is unquestionable and its use becomes not only policy, but is embraced as dogma by the ideology which wields it. At that point, the end result becomes inevitable. All problems are addressed using the application of that highly successful but ethically questionable method which eventually gets used with such forcefulness and frequency that it becomes a moral hazard unto itself and winds up creating more problems than it solves. However, the true believers, who've been conditioned to think that their methodology is infallible by years if not decades of success, will continue to pound away at every problem that arises with it regardless of the damage that they cause in the process and in spite of the fact that their method no longer produces the desired results.

Welcome to the worst case scenario. Whether it be a man beating his wife, a state torturing people for information, an addict seeking another fix to calm the shakes, a politician telling another lie to win another vote, or a central banker extending another vast loan to prop up a corrupt system, the repeated use of such measures always ends in escalation and tragedy. Of course, we've all heard many stories of this nature and we all know that buying into bubbles and abusing one's power is wrong and self-destructive, but no matter how much we swear to never allow ourselves to be as stupid as our predecessors we make similar mistakes and suffer similar catastrophes. The reason that we do these things is that the immediate gains of doing something immoral outweigh the long term risks of repeatedly doing that thing, at least for awhile, thus allowing us to believe that we can quit at any time and permitting the conditioning effect of getting rewarded for doing something self-destructive to grow and strengthen. Eventually this conditioning will grow strong enough to overcome the most disciplined minds and the path to disaster is all downhill from there. So in the end we will have a dead wife, a police state, a homeless junkie selling their body for drugs, a corrupt politician, and Ben Bernanke, a man who refuses to administer the necessary but painful economic medicine to reform a broken system and chooses instead to administer morphine until the patient dies. Another predictable tragedy unfolds.

Of course, an even worse scenario is that somehow the central bankers of the world manage to save the current monetary regime, as dysfunctional and corrupt as it is, and keep it alive for a few more years or longer. The system is increasingly benefiting the few over the many and preventing the judicious use of existing resources in favor of overconsumption and wasteful excess, not to mention the utter destruction of any sense of morality and ethics in the financial realm and beyond. I would not want to see the current system continue as too many are suffering enough as it is. To be honest, I wished that the correction could have begun ten years ago, but it wasn't allowed to happen then or any time since and now the collapse will regrettably be much, much worse. So please mister Bernanke, stop feeding our bodies into the voracious god of neo- liberalist capitalism. Let it die, and let us all come together to bury it and rebuild upon a solid foundation.

Speaking of "Food for the Gods", the three-CD work is undergoing an overhaul in the Fireaxe studio. Not only will all the tracks be remixed with an ear to make the sound more balanced like "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess", but the vocals are being re-recorded as well. So far the change is like night and day and songs like "My Name is Joshua" and "Chariot" sound as fierce and strong as they were meant to be. And oh, wait until you hear "Malediction", it will have you praying at the feet of the dark goddess herself. Well, actually I don't want you to start worshipping her or any other god or goddess for that matter. Please see past the hyperbole to the intended message: the new "Food" will rock harder than ever.

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

The Meaning of the Songs - Masters of the Universe

Before I get into the descriptions of the individual tracks I'd like to take a moment to talk about the CD in general and some of the early feedback. Overall the responses are very favorable with the consensus being that while it is another great Fireaxe epic it is not quite as good as "Food for the Gods". I can understand that for the most part seeing as how it is impossible for a single CD to measure up to the epic nature of a concept work nearly three times as long. However, I do think that "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess" is better than any single CD from the previous work considered by itself, so please don't be disappointed. My intention was to create an eighty minute story, similar to the fourteen epics on "Food for the Gods", and specifically one that contained a more in depth look at the modern world than I was able to portray in "Waiting for Tomorrow". So, in essence, the new CD is more like a part of the larger themes explored in "Food for the Gods" and so it naturally can't be as epic, but I feel that it is certainly more refined, profound, and well produced than any previous Fireaxe work.

Also, there is a difference in the feel of the two projects. In "Food for the Gods" there were a lot of aggressive "testosterone driven" style tracks, like "Chariot", "My Name is Joshua", "Where Eagles Fly", etc., where the protagonist is a highly motivated and ruthless conquering hero. In contrast, on the new CD only "Masters of the Universe" contains that style of music, although "Viva la Revolucion" is close to imitating that form. Instead, the new CD is more subtle with the protagonist doing much more suffering and much less winning than the protagonists in the previous work. While that may be a let down, it is by design. "Eternal" was intended to be a long descent into a personal hell that ends in a type of triumph that only a nihilist could love. But the protagonist doesn't have a "Sum of All Fears" or "Cut or be Cut" moment at the end of the new CD which is what some of you might have been expecting. However, I intentionally avoided putting such a moment in the CD because that was not the direction that I wanted to go. In "Eternal" the protagonist has been denied triumph and glory all his life. His victories as an executive are tainted and incomplete, the woman he loved was defiled before he could win her hand, and his "revolucion" was merely a cynical ploy to help him exact his revenge. There is no big bang at the end, just a number of defiant verses and an initially confusing final passage. When the last track draws to a close you might find yourself asking "what just happened?" but upon closer examination, and I'd like everyone to examine Fireaxe music closely, you will see that his plan was a carefully orchestrated ruse intended to draw the antagonist into making a terrible blunder using the principles discussed in the previous tracks. I'll go into further detail in later editions of the Burning Blade, but I did want to point out the reasons why the CD is how it is for those of you who have already had a chance to listen to it. Anyway, on with the song descriptions.

The second and third tracks of "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess" are what I like to call my one-two punch, where I lay siege to the ideologies of our modern world on both the left and the right. As much as the CD, and all Fireaxe in general, may sound like a typical antiwar leftist screed, the more that you look into it the more that you'll see it is a balanced attack along a number of different fronts. Ideology in general, or at least the inevitably corrupted versions of them, was, is, and always will be the primary target of Fireaxe both in music and in writing. The new CD is no different, and this theme is clear in the second and third tracks.

"Masters of the Universe" is a scathing attack on cutthroat capitalism with numerous and often vulgar references to various deceptive, unethical, and brutal business practices which have once again risen to prominence in the modern corporate culture. The arrogance of the protagonist saturates the song as well as his extreme aggression in the pursuit of profit. I've got a lot of favorite lines in this song but perhaps the one I like best is the spoken part where he says, "R.O.I. Look it up." For those of you not economically literate, the abbreviation stands for Return On Investment, which is another way of saying "profit". It's simply the amount of money that is returned to you when you invest in a particular project, asset, or company. I like the line because it captures the protagonist's attitude so well, as if he is saying, "If you don't understand what I'm talking about then you're an idiot and you deserve to be poor".

That attitude personifies the modern right wing, although there is little which resembles true conservatism in today's version of economics. The protagonist's harsh attitudes towards bleeding heart liberals, the poor, and the working class are shared by many "conservatives" and find sympathy in the halls of right leaning institutions. And although he does attack organized religion it's only to point out that it's all a big scam, just like the ones that he runs with his business. The critique here is that organized religion isn't about morality, it's really all about power. And while there are a few stabs at leftist ideas here and there, the song mainly assaults the right by showing the extreme side of that perspective and how corruption has turned it into a voracious monster.

Another aspect of the song that I like is the similarity between the world of cutthroat capitalism and the domain of street gangs. This track compares well with the typical egotistical machismo and disrespect for others that can be found in a large number of "gansta rap" songs. From the rhyming to the profanity to the rapid-fire lyrics the rap and metal genres merge in what I believe is a completely unique way. Although the musical style is all metal, the influence of the rap culture and its reflection in the modern business culture come together to reveal that high brow and low brow are not necessarily two completely different things. Both the street thug and the young executive can embrace similar strategies and attitudes towards rivals and have the same success in their rise to the top. Add to that the fact that both corporations and gangs are highly motivated to sell product and eliminate competitors and one can see that the "law of the jungle" applies similarly to both cultures. The closer that you look, the less of a stretch comparisons between the two become.

Now, the depiction of corporations in the song is extreme and I do not believe that it is typical of what goes on in the average company, large or small. Likewise, "gangsta rap" music isn't an accurate portrayal of a typical day in the inner city, but both do a good job of capturing the part of both cultures that is pulling them in a sociopathic direction. There have been many times throughout history where the cultures of the boardroom and the mean streets have turned from civil to brutal and back again and these days it appears that egotism, greed, and a win-at-all-costs attitude has pervaded too much of our society. But beyond just pointing a finger at all that is wrong with cutthroat capitalism, "Masters of the Universe" delves deeper, unearthing the driving forces behind the madness. The song reveals how the protagonist began humbly, trying to play by the rules in a culture where backstabbing, cronyism, and deal-making are the preferred methods of advancement. It doesn't take him very long to realize that he is going nowhere and so he puts his drive to succeed ahead of his personal ethics and grabs for the brass ring. Who can blame him though? If breaking the rules and chucking one's morality have no consequences then aren't the rules really that there are no rules? The protagonist is merely adapting to his environment.

In the middle of the song there is a slow part which digs further into the issue of how the protagonist got to be where he is. His success bore great fruit, even though it came at a price, but we find out that it is not his personal ambition that drives him as much as it is his desire to be a success in the eyes of his parents. His inner conflict rages as he sees how happy he has made his mother and father, hiding the fact that he had to use methods that they would not approve of to attain his position. But were their expectations reasonable given the ends that he had to go to in order to achieve them? The great moral questions of our age abound here, especially when the protagonist utters the following lines:

"This is what you wanted.
This is what we dream of.
This is what we worship.
This is what brings us closer to God."

Capitalism has become the dominant ideology in the west and indeed the entire world, replacing democracy which had made all religions subservient to it. Capitalism is more than a monetary system though, it has become a system which assigns value to things beyond that which are considered commodities and services. At this point in history it should be obvious to even the most pro-growth proponent that the excessive and growing consumption by the vast majority of the world's inhabitants is evidence that the many values systems of a variety of cultures, traditions, and religions have been supplanted by what can be measured in monetary terms. Success is defined by terms like "bigger", "better", and "more" rather than by more aesthetic qualities. This is not to say that we are focused entirely on getting rich, but rather that wealth is the measure by which we evaluate too much of our world. If someone is rich we assume that they did something right to become that way, and if they are poor we assume that they made mistakes or did something wrong and deserve their status. Thus, wealth becomes a measure of morality as well as success. Also, we judge ideas, talent, skill, and a great number of things by how easily those things are translated into wealth. The mark of a good idea or a good performance is revealed by how many people are willing to pay for it since money has become the measure of quality. One dollar equals one vote in the "democracy" of capitalism.

Think about how you see the world. If someone says that they have a good idea, is your first thought that they should try to market it or that the proof that it is a good idea is how well it sells? Such a standard makes Fireaxe an utter failure. When someone says that they graduated from a prestigious university do you assume that they will be able to land a well paying job or think that something is wrong with them if they do not? Do you see your job more as a way to make money than as a way to do your part in our society? And if you became rich, would you quit working? Most people would argue that while they do enjoy material things that their values system is separate from economics, but after the grotesque spending and consumption spree that I've witnessed over the last decade or more all that I can say to that is that most people are completely full of shit. If our values were strong we would laugh at advertising rather than embrace its irrational context. No, instead we have been sold a make-believe world of achievement, enjoyment, and self worth defined in monetary terms that is every bit as virulent and absurd as any dogma put forth by any of the world's religions. Our ideology has become capitalism, or perhaps more accurately, Consumptionism, which is a heresy of overindulgence that lacks the discipline of the notion that debts must be repaid and the tenet that a stable and well regulated money supply is essential to social well being. Thus, when the protagonist in the song declares that becoming rich "is what brings us closer to God" he is referring to the worship of a new religion called Consumptionism.

There is one more bullet left in "Masters of the Universe" and that occurs in the very next verse. Before we hypocrites do our customary "tsk tsk" dismissal of the protagonist's perverted values system, which of course we do not share, the protagonist reveals two very inconvenient facts about why we accept things the way that they are. The first is that most of us have few issues with someone doing immoral things so long as they are serving our interests, especially when it is our leaders doing those immoral things. Instead we make excuses for them and don't try to reign them in like we do others who break our code of ethics. This type of moral relativism is practiced by many and especially by those who claim to have strong morals. The second inconvenient fact is that even if we don't suffer from moral relativism, we must still align ourselves with someone whom we may not approve of so that we do not suffer under the rule of an even more malevolent leader. This is not to say that all leaders are despicable tyrants, but in the absence of an ethical standard which keeps the ruthless out of power there inevitably manifests a "race to the bottom" where sins committed by one ruler effectively permit other rulers the leeway to do the same. And so, down, down, down we go.

Now, about the music on the track. "Masters of the Universe" was the most troublesome song that I've ever written as far as getting it to sound and feel the way that I wanted it to. Over the course of the writing and recording of the CD I changed the tempo of the song at least twice, reworked the drumming several times, altered the guitar parts more times than I care to remember, and recorded the vocals in a number of different styles before finding something that I liked. For some frustrating reason the song just kept coming up flat. I'd record it one way and then on subsequent listens it would sound lifeless. So I would make some changes and think that I had it rocking and then discover later that it still hadn't gelled right. I could have given up and stayed satisfied with what I had at any time, but my perfectionism took over and the end result is what you are hearing on the CD, which is pretty much exactly the feel and flow that I wanted when the lyrics were first written.

The end result is fantastic. The music is aggressive and relentless, matching the protagonist's approach to business. The thrashy guitar work and syncopating rhythms scream "Fireaxe" at the top of their lungs and I am glad that this song is well liked by many a faithful listener. I now know for a fact that all my work putting this song together was worth it. I love just about everything about it, including the style, which is reminiscent of the formula that worked so well for metal bands of the eighties. Yes, the solo, the breakdown into the slow part, and the ABACAB format aren't exactly breaking new ground, but given the unique directions taken in the rest of the CD it's not a bad thing to have a well placed throwback to the era of foot-stomping, head-banging metal as part of "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess".

Regarding the lyrics, Octavio Ramos and I teamed up to co-author this song and I feel that it contains some of his best and most brutal analogies to date. What can I say about my friend Octavio? He was truly inspired when he wrote this song, and the vast majority of the lyrics came from his hand. Not unlike the way that the music went, the lyrics also took several iterations before they reached a final form. Octavio would send me something and I'd slice it and dice it and send it back and then he'd work on it and send me back something which was even better than before. The final product is simply filthy. It's sharp, vicious, and oh so very corporate. The age of modern capitalism is well represented by "Masters of the Universe".

Which brings me to the final question to be answered about this track, what exactly is FUD anyway? In the song there is a line about "gonna FUD you in the ass" and you might be wondering if that's a typo or that I meant to write another word beginning with 'f'. The answer is no, I meant to say FUD and it is very much a euphemism for the corporate version of sodomy. FUD is an abbreviation which stands for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. It is a tactic that originated in the software industry a few decades ago and takes advantage of the fear, uncertainty and doubt in computer users about whether or not a new application, game, upgrade, or download will work with their system or potentially screw things up beyond repair. A lot of people have a least one horror story about how when they installed something on to their computer that something else stopped working or that their computer would crash or lock up on them at inconvenient times and as a result they did not want to re-experience the pain of reformatting their computer or paying the expense of having someone else fix it ever again. Thus, people will tend to want to buy only reliable software and equipment. This is where the FUD strategy comes in. If a large corporation, like say, Microsoft for instance, wanted to sell its applications over those of its competitors, it could do so by implying that installing non-Microsoft products on a Microsoft operating system might result in compatibility issues and other problems, while using Microsoft products for everything ensures that everything will work perfectly. Then, out of fear of a computer crash, uncertainty that third party software would install correctly, and doubt that tech support would be able to help them fix any problems, users would be more prone to choose Microsoft. Voila! FUD! Of course, in reality Microsoft went much farther than simply implying that there might be problems when using third party software. In fact they were caught altering the way that their operating system supported certain applications so that their competitors' products would not work correctly while Microsoft products would. This strategy was named "embrace, extend, and extinguish" and in essence allowed Microsoft to wield its position of having a monopoly on operating systems as a weapon against those who tried to write software that competed with their products.

In any event, that is just a taste of the some of the unsavory tactics practiced at some of the largest corporations in the world. Investigate others at your own risk as you might lose faith in the system and in humanity in general as a result.

The Meaning of the Songs - Masters of the Universe

"And though my hands were far beyond cleansing,
I kept my heart pure. What a waste."

And with those words the most intense Fireaxe song of the CD, and perhaps of all time, was launched. One listener commented that I wasn't able to keep up the intensity after the third track and I have to begrudgingly agree with that, I mean, how can I follow "My Angel" with anything that sounds nearly as powerful? This is not to say that the second half of the CD is weak by any measure. In fact, there were times during the recording where I thought that the first half was weak in comparison to the second and figured that I needed to work more on the first four tracks to balance it out. In any event, if this track moves you more than any other you are not alone. To me, "My Angel" is one of the many "stories which must be told" which aren't being told for one reason or another. "Black Knight" is another one of those stories as well as the entirety of "A Dream of Death". I say this because these stories tell of life from a perspective that doesn't get a lot of attention, mainly because the main characters are nerdy outcasts like yours truly, and also because they end in tragedy, not in triumph. Not surprisingly, the "nerd tragedy" genre is not alive and well, except on Fireaxe CDs and perhaps between the lines of many a Dilbert cartoon. Still, there is an audience for it, however small, so I will continue to serve it.

I remember once reading a story written by a young man whose girlfriend was raped. I can't remember whether he had tried to defend her and was beaten up or whether he was simply not there when it happened, but I do remember him write that his girlfriend was never the same afterwards. She was traumatized, distant, frightened of intimacy, and her relationship with the author slowly disintegrated despite the author's devotion and willingness to accept her. In his writing I could feel his sense of anguish, despair, anger, guilt, and most of all a sense of powerlessness that struck a chord with me. He described how he had a strong urge to buy a gun and kill his girlfriend's rapist after the man was released from prison but didn't go through with it because he didn't want to throw his life away for nothing. After all, revenge wasn't going return his beloved girlfriend to being the way that she was before. In the end he was broken, she was broken, and lives were pointlessly destroyed. His was the kind of story that I wanted to tell with music and with the types and intensities of emotions that I wanted my listeners to feel. And so I wrote "My Angel".

The song is not autobiographical in any sense except that I delved into my own emotions to give the song its character. The ladies of the world have decided that they do not like me and so I've never actually gotten a romantic type relationship to the point where it could be destroyed as painfully as the one in the song, but I have had a number of friends relate similar experiences to that of the protagonist to me and so this song is dedicated to all those who've suffered through this sort of powerless, frustrating agony.

The protagonist in "My Angel" seems very different than the one in "Masters of the Universe". Where he is strong, aggressive, and relentless in the previous track, he is soft, caring, and unsure of himself in this one. However, the key lies in the opening spoken verse where he expresses his desire to keep his heart pure. The protagonist knows that he has cast aside his ethics and honor to become rich and powerful in the business world, but he doesn't want the entire world to be that way for him. Sure, he could go after women like he goes after profit, and would easily be able to seduce as many as he wanted given his position, but what he desires is to have some place in the world that's free of the "lust and envy" and immorality that have polluted the rest of his life. He wants to have something that's "pure and undespoiled", a part of his heart to share with another whom he can shelter from the ravages of a world of animalistic drives. This idealism is very much right wing in as much as it champions a traditional view of sex roles and the dating ritual. He places his angel on a pedestal and woos her with charm, romance, and an offer that few women could refuse. To be quite honest, the first part of the song is so sweet and innocent that it sounds almost bizarre when viewed from the perspective of our modern sex-obsessed culture. That was by design, contrasting the sexual mores of an age long gone, if it ever truly existed, with that of the post-feminist reality of today. Indeed, the ideology of the left wing, with its insistence on destroying traditional sex roles, enforcement of equality, and endless mockery of modesty and chastity has created an environment where instant gratification and serial monogamy are the norm and where the idea of building a solid relationship that can endure hardships is pointless, dull, and doomed to failure. It is this facet of left wing ideology that comes under fire in "My Angel", one which is essentially Consumptionism applied to sex and relationships, and which is vulgar, animalistic, and devoid of meaning.

In the first part of the song the protagonist overcomes his fears and reluctance and approaches the woman he desires. He is then rewarded for his sincere and romantic efforts with a pair of promises that she makes to him, revealing that their relationship is probably just one question away from marriage. Perhaps the protagonist intended to ask that question at the celebration that he takes her to in the second part of the song, but we will never know for after the protagonist leaves his angel for "just a moment" she is swept up into the arms of a handsome, smooth-talking liar who seduces her. The protagonist is overcome with a desire to step in between them and assault his rival, but the thing which holds him back is the look in his angel's eyes when she stares into those of the intruder. Indeed, she is swooning, enraptured by the liar's spell, and she surrenders to him body and soul as we find out later. And so, realizing that he does not measure up to his rival's charisma and charm, the protagonist simply swallows his anger, as he has done so many times before, and walks away. Inside he is seething, and in an extremely intense section of the song we hear his anger turn inwards and become self hatred and finally depression.

Now, I realize this part of the song is loaded with profanity, but in light of the context I felt that it would be disingenuous not to use such language. How many of us have been in that position before? Were our thoughts clean or were they profane like the ones expressed by the protagonist? In any event, I didn't try to hide the vulgarity of the scene or the profane words or the graphic nature of what happened and instead put it all out on display. This is the hideous face of reality. Look at it. See it. Understand it.

The third part of the song begins slowly. Things seem like they might finally be over but the emotional turmoil has only just begun. The protagonist's "angel" visits him after getting dumped by the smooth-talking liar and she confesses her sins, all of them, and in painful detail. Meanwhile the protagonist just sits there, holding his angel, trying to make her feel better, but all the while the anger inside him is growing. He hates the liar for what he has done to his angel and regrets not doing anything to stop him, but when he realizes that his angel hasn't truly come back to him and in fact still loves the man who treated her so badly his anger breaks free of its chains and he starts to lose control of himself. It is here where his emotional churning begins in earnest. The protagonist is tormented by the thoughts of what could have been but was destroyed by his angel's flight of fancy. He screams at his angel, calling her hateful names, and barely stops short of hurting her physically before somehow managing to calm himself. Then, once again he tries to swallow his anger and just accept things the way that they are rather than the way he wanted them to be. He almost manages to do so but his heart just won't allow it. No, he has been hurt too deeply and the realization that not only can he no longer feel love for his angel, but that he will never be able to love anyone else so passionately again, pushes him over the edge. The protagonist can no longer control himself and his full fury is unleashed upon the woman he once loved with all of his heart. Here I spare most of the details of what he does to her in the final part of the song, alluding to his actions without describing them, and instead I focus on the very dark emotions that the protagonist feels as he stares down at the lifeless body that used to make him feel so wonderful. In the end he sees her "for what she was…just another promise…betrayed." This, in a nutshell, is the story of the protagonist's life. The dreams he chased and the promises that they held all end in misery and betrayal.

One possible perspective on the song "My Angel" is to say that the protagonist got what he deserved. After all of the lying and cheating and treachery that he used to gain power and riches in the previous song he loses what he held most dear as the result of someone else using those very same tactics albeit in the art of seduction. While that is true, that was not my primary intention for the song. Instead, I was trying to show how the innocent and idealistic facets of life are destroyed by the corrupted versions of ideologies from both sides of the spectrum. In "Masters of the Universe", cutthroat capitalism destroys the protagonist's sense of fair play and the value of his hard work. In "My Angel", promiscuity destroys the protagonist's innocence and his capacity to love. But what has been utterly destroyed though is the "American Dream". You know, the one where a man gets a good job, works hard, is successful, and marries a loving woman who raises their children in a comfortable home in the country with a white picket fence and a dog and so forth. That America is long gone, shoved aside by the new America divided by two radical ideologies raging out of control with lust and greed.

The music in the song had to match the emotional content and thus it ranges everywhere from soaring and beautiful to hideous and intense. The latter I knew that I could do well, but the former was quite a challenge. At first I was very worried about putting five minutes of little more than vocals and keyboards into a Fireaxe song, especially with the "new age" sounding synthesizer parts and the naïve nature of the lyrics. From a metal perspective this part of the CD is completely wussified. And while a minute or two of that kind of thing would probably be tolerable to most head-bangers I wasn't sure if I should have trimmed it down or not. Yet the flow of the song demanded the length of the part as well as its pure innocence and so it ended up mostly unchanged in its final form. Another concern that I had was that there was no distortion to cover my voice and that with the new microphone that I was using that everyone would hear all of the mistakes and inconsistencies in my singing. It felt like I was taking a huge risk, but that's what I do when I record music, and so it was full steam ahead. The good news is that I feel that I was able to not only whip the part into passable form, but that it is has become one of my favorite parts of the entire CD. It is hauntingly sweet, and when listened to with the knowledge that it will all end horribly it becomes tragic as well. In the middle where I sing "My angel. My angel." it sounds so nice that I can't believe that it is me doing the singing. I've come a long way since the "Unholy Rapture" days, that's for sure. So all seemed well until my search for a female vocalist came up empty and I had to sing her part or figure out a way to leave it out. The former option was easier as cutting out her part was going to put a big hole in the song, but singing female vocals was a challenge that was almost monumental. This wasn't like the part in "Black Knight" where I could get away with whispering the parts of the "demon goddess" in a feminine voice. No, I had to pull out my best falsetto and try to sell the lines as if I were a love-struck young woman. I tried my best and I feel that it almost sneaks past the listener without raising a flag. Well darnit, it just isn't easy trying to make your musical vision into reality.

When the song moves into the second part the music captures the feel of ballroom dancing as it gently sways to a duet between a piano and bass guitar (a first for metal?). Then the rhythm guitars come in and build the intensity to match the mood of the music. It builds and builds until finally reaching the crescendo where the full power and intensity pound away with the same ferocity as the rage in the lyrics before giving way to a dark emotional mood. The transition through the second part is grand, capturing everything wonderfully, or at least I think so.

The third part of the song grinds away at your emotions, switching between soft, delicate parts, strong, forceful parts, and crushing parts with pulsing intensity and screaming vocals. Back and forth the music goes, rising and falling with the turmoil of the protagonist until it finally reaches the emotional climax of the song:

"and forever there'll be a hole inside me,
bringing me pain, and screaming your name."

After which it descends into one of the most powerful riffs on the CD topped with a piercing guitar solo and finishing with a low end, flowing riff to carry an exhausted listener home. It is a special track in many ways.

At the end of the "My Angel" you've listened to only about thirty-six minutes of Fireaxe but you might feel as though you've listened to the entire CD. The first three songs are very taxing in an emotional and even physical way and I wouldn't be surprised if you might be worn out after hearing them. I don't blame you if you are because when I listened to the CD all the way through for the first time rather than just song by song. "My Angel" had the same effect on me and it kind of left me emotionally numb for a while, allowing the next few tracks to slip by without raising my interest too much. Did that mean that those songs weren't as intense as I thought? Well, no. I knew for sure that some of my favorite parts of the CD were on the second half but they didn't sound so intense on my first listen. What I realized was that I'd been emotionally drained by the first three tracks and that I needed time to recover. So if you've been feeling the same way after listening to "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess" consider pausing the CD halfway through as kind of an intermission to let your batteries recharge. There's a short break at the end of the fourth track "The Evil Men Do" which works well as a break between halves. Pause your CD player, take off your earphones, walk around, relax a bit, and think about what you've just heard before diving back in again. Then you'll be ready for the second half of this darkest of all Fireaxe CDs.

That's all for this edition. More to come next time.

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 / $9
Food for the Gods: $12 / $14 (SOLD OUT)
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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