The Burning Blade
Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 11.5
August 2, 2008
"There are reasons to believe this coming crisis is different
"…we have reached a point in financial history that we have
and bigger than the world has ever experienced. Instead of
using globalism in a positive fashion, it's been used to globalize
all of the mistakes of the politicians, bureaucrats and central
- Ron Paul on the floor of the
House of Representatives
never seen before. That’s right, no one you are reading and no
one commenting on our current financial markets is an expert
on where we are going. So, successful navigation of these straits
will require a great deal of listening, frankness, and humility –
things that have always been in short supply within the financial
- Doug Wakefield and Ben Hill, financial
market experts with a firm grasp on the
limits of their expertise
Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 11.5
August 2, 2008
"There are reasons to believe this coming crisis is different
"…we have reached a point in financial history that we have
August 2, 2008
"There are reasons to believe this coming crisis is different
"…we have reached a point in financial history that we have
Or, to simplify, we're screwed.
When I was in college I took a course in economics and expected it to be all numbers. I figured that economics was a science and that like the other science courses that I had taken I would be bombarded with equations, principles, and models that had been tested and proved over time. This was not the case. Economics, as it stands today, is not a science but is simply yet another pseudo- scientific discipline ruled by ideologues and is thus very much like other "sciences" from psychology to business to education to politics. Proof of this can easily be obtained by pointing out that there are currently six major schools of economics, along with numerous minor ones, which all disagree with each other when it comes to the causes of economic events and policies that should be followed to avoid problems and increase prosperity. Economists more resemble the gambling addict who swears that he's figured out a perfect "system" that is guaranteed to make you money in the casino than the scientist who humbly forges on in the pursuit of verifying or falsifying his hypothesis. Furthermore, as these economic schools tend to focus on influencing policy decisions rather than analyzing economies, it can also be said with some certainty that economic theories are closer to being ideologies than disciplines. This would explain the reason why our financial history is littered with booms, busts, and frequent switches from one economic policy to another in similar fashion to the way that our political history is rife with successes, failures, and revolutions. The Fireaxe theory states that all ideologies are based on falsehoods and thus if economic theories are, in effect, ideologies, that they too are based on false assumptions. Support for this assertion comes from the ongoing and worsening financial disaster where the assumptions on which neo-liberal "Monetarist" economics are based are finally, and painfully, being proved wrong. Price stability my foot, or other body part.
If the idea that there are different schools of economics is confusing it might help you to visualize the Keynesians, the Monetarists, and the Austrians as the Catholics, the Protestants, and the Jews, and to think of Alan Greenspan as the Pope….not at all an inappropriate analogy given that when Greenspan appeared before congress he could have just as well been speaking in Latin given all the gibberish that was coming out of his mouth. Of course, nothing he said mattered as long as the economy was going well, and Alan knew how to goose the money supply and kick problems down the road better than anyone, so few wanted to challenge him and none were successful at changing anything when they did. But now that our problems are not being solved by, and to be quite frank about this, extraordinarily dangerous measures that will serve only to further distort a seriously dysfunctional economy, we will see if Pope Greenspan is anointed as a Saint and implored to come back and save us or if he is scorned as a false prophet. Of course, he's already absolved himself of all guilt and placed the blame for the current fiasco on others, but whether the general public will do so remains to be seen. Personally, I would like to see Pope Greenspan burned if effigy if not in person and have certainly heaped a lot of scorn upon him over the years but given that the U.S. is running a huge deficit when it comes to accountability, among other
things, I doubt that he will be regarded as anything less than a genius. Economics is not about the pursuit of truth, instead it is about generating the justifications necessary to convince a government to make a given set of policy decisions for an economic system which is based more in political ideology than sound principles. This is a tragedy since the study of money and trade would best be served by a purely analytical approach using modern computers and finely tuned models, and given the scope of today's global economy we would all benefit greatly if things were being run in an efficient, productive, and most importantly, sustainable manner. But instead of monitoring a wide variety of economic measures and using them to make periodic corrections to the economic system, today's leading economists usually cherry-pick the economic measures which support their positions and use them to justify their solutions. Since economics is not a science, no school can prove itself right until after its policies have been applied, and so all of them seek to try out their approaches on the national scale. The result is an ongoing battle between rival economic ideologies for control of the political apparatus with the winner being the one was being applied when the economic woes at the time subsided. That economic ideology then stays in power until the economy inevitably collapses, as it must since all ideologies are based on falsehoods, at which point the competition for the new ruling economic theory takes place.
This has happened before many times. In recent years, the Great Depression marked the end of classical laissez-faire economics and ushered in the rise of Keynesianism in the West, Fascism in parts of Europe, and Communism in the East. All of these economic theories held that the state must intervene in the markets to some degree in order to promote stability and ensure efficiency, and after the global economic collapse in the 1930's it wasn't difficult to point the finger at an unfettered free market as being prone to catastrophe. All of these theories failed at one point or another and none are practiced today. In the West, after a thirty year reign, Keynesianism collapsed during the inflation prone years of the 1970's and gave way to Monetarism in the 1980's, which has essentially spread across the world and pushed all other theories to the sidelines. Monetarism championed price stability as its central focus, which was very much in need after a period of very high inflation, but instead of being a return to sound money policies, such as having a currency that is backed by gold and limiting the amount of debt and leveraging in the financial system, Monetarism argued that as long as prices were kept stable, increasing or decreasing the money supply to any degree was fine since stable prices were proof that the money was sound. But now that prices are highly unstable in many areas, the money supply is being radically increased, and debts and financial obligations have reached unprecedented levels, the Monetarist's policies are failing and one can hear the various economic schools positioning themselves as having the answers to solving today's problems. As the collapse continues, as I'm convinced that it will, we will likely see Monetarists discredited and another flawed school take its place, or perhaps several schools come and go before a recovery kicks in and a new economic "god" is crowned.
As an aside, a year ago I predicted that the current collapse would likely take about eighteen months to hit bottom. After taking a closer look at the Great Depression, which required thirty months before things bottomed out, I think that my estimate was too optimistic. So instead of things turning up by the end of the year it may take until the 2010 before the true bottom is hit. Of course, given the scope of the problems in the financial system today, it could take even longer for everything to come crashing down. As Wakefield and Hill point out, we've never been here before, so the future cannot be predicted to any degree of certainty. I feel that your best bet is to be prepared to ride out some serious turmoil and the following malaise which may stretch out for a decade or more before returning to something more stable.
So, is economics a complete crap-shoot that no one can master? I would have to say no. There are a number of economic principles that most schools agree upon as well as a number of more or less common sense measures that need to be accounted for in any economic theory before it is put into practice. Sound money is one, which has been proved out over time versus paper "fiat" money. Another key fundamental which the Monetarists overlook is debt. An excessively high debt load always seems to precede a collapse, and a few years back when I saw that the total debt load for governments, corporations, and individuals in the U.S., and most of the world for that matter, was as high as it was before the Great Depression I didn't need much more to convince me that something truly bad was on its way. I try to focus on the big picture and solid principles rather than get sidetracked on details and short-term performance, and as an engineer I understand the second law of thermodynamics which in effect states that "there is not such thing as a free lunch". Yes, over the decades I saw the plates piling up and knew that eventually the waiter was going to come over with a hefty bill, so the question in my mind has not been "if" it would happen, but when.
But how did it get like this? It seems clear to me that much of it has to do with another "big picture" indicator: the distribution of wealth; which needs to be kept within an optimal band in order for an economy to run at full speed. Wealth is a reward and those that work hard and contribute more deserve a larger share. Also, wealth creates opportunities, allowing people to take risks, like starting a business, or changing careers. And spreading wealth around creates a more "democratic" financial landscape that allows more people to indulge in the fruits of their neighbors' labor, expanding the marketplace for all things. In the two extreme cases: perfectly even distribution of wealth, and having most of it controlled by a few, one's opportunities to become richer are essentially zero, your reward will be the same no matter how good you do, so motivation is lost and productivity lags. But between those two extremes there is an optimal balance between rich, poor, and middle class where economic activity is at its most productive, taking full advantage of people's desires to get ahead and benefiting from a wide and rich consumer base. It would seem that shifting too far from the optimal band to either end of the spectrum would result in a loss of productivity, but it appears that free market forces do not keep the distribution within the band and instead tends to result in the rich having far too much and everyone else far too little. In the past market forces have been offset with steep progressive taxation and strong labor unions, but both of these institutions have been severely weakened in the U.S. over the last thirty years and the result is a sub-optimal distribution of wealth in the country.
Now when the distribution of wealth becomes so skewed that productivity lags, one solution is to tax the rich more and the poor less, making the tax tables more progressive, and another is to increase the salaries of the working class, both of which rebalance the distribution of wealth. However, a more common "solution" is for the rich to loan money to the less well to do, which at first results in a temporary redistribution of wealth and continued prosperity. But since the loans must be paid back, with interest, the result in the long term is a further skewing of the distribution of wealth and an even greater loss of productivity. Of course, this can be corrected with even larger loans, with the loss in productivity being delayed yet longer, but it will result in the distribution of wealth becoming skewed to an even more extreme level. This will continue until either someone who is in power, and has even an ounce of common sense, steps in and says, "enough is enough", and puts an end to it, for which he gets blamed for the subsequent collapse, or the capacity for the debtors to pay back their loans drops far enough so that the number of defaults exceeds the predicted risk on the loans and the system of ever-expanding credit starts to turn rapidly in reverse.
This, it appears, is the situation that we find ourselves in today. Debt has become a way of life for many of us, and with the prices of our houses falling rapidly, our illusion of wealth is being revealed as vanity. More troubling is that our government is attempting to solve the problem in exactly the wrong way, borrowing yet more money to pay off those who extended the loans, which will shift the distribution of wealth even further off kilter. Furthermore, with interest rates being kept so low, it appears that the powers that be are attempting to create yet another bubble which would allow the have-nots to borrow yet more and further exacerbate the problem. If economics was a science we wouldn't have our lives in the hands of men who are learning via trial and error.
But isn't the economy growing despite this suggested loss in productivity due to a misdistribution of wealth? Well, if you believe the government's reporting of the inflation rate, which somehow doesn't take food or energy into account, the GDP in the U.S. is barely above zero. However, if you subtract the amount of money that Americans have to borrow from the GDP (around 12%) or use the increase in the money supply (at least 16%) instead of core inflation, the fable of growth in the U.S. turns into a horror story of extreme contraction. Without debt we are in a depression and the bad news is that we are running out of things to put up as collateral so that we can borrow more. Now, if the Monetarists are right, and they have been wrong at every juncture since the credit crunch began last summer, the economy will magically get better by the beginning of next year, which is curious timing since it seems that if the economy doesn't get better by then that they are in a position to put the blame on President Obama (or McCain if you believe in miracles). However, if I am right, without a program to aggressively redistribute wealth we will continue to slide downward with no end in sight. Another bubble, if it is possible to create one under the current conditions, would only kick the true problems down the road further.
It is true that bubbles are self-correcting, at least in that what goes up must come down, but contrary to a number of economic theories the solution is not to leave things alone and let them work themselves out. The collapse of the system does not redistribute wealth in itself, and thus the post-collapse environment will still be at a sub-optimal level of productivity. In fact, the distribution can get even more skewed as many debtors will find themselves absolutely destitute as their collateral is taken away. The natural reaction after a loss is to cling to what one has left and so anyone, even the government, will be hard pressed to redistribute the nation's wealth after a collapse. Taking money from the rich is hard in any case let alone after they have lost so much, and so it is not so much the height of the boom, nor the severity of the crash that results in the extended suffering in a depression, it is the misdistribution of wealth and slowness of the adoption of measures which redistribute that wealth which prevent things from going back to the way they were. Also, the recovery moves even slower when the banking system collapses, since borrowing, at least of the type which increases productivity, not that spent on plasma TVs and granite countertops, is vital to any economy. When banks end up with little or no capital or go out of business altogether, the economy grinds to a halt.
Assuming that this is all correct, how can one go about getting from a post-collapse economy to a healthy thriving one with sound money and stable prices and motivated people with many opportunities to get ahead? That's the tricky part, because the distribution of wealth isn't just numbers on a piece of paper, it is a complex and elaborate set of both physical and financial relationships which connect everyone in the entire world with everyone else. Changing things a little in one area can result in large repercussions elsewhere, so changing things a lot all over the world will have a profound effect on the lives of billions of people, most of whom will resist changes as they cling to what is giving them a sense of security. Add to that the fact that they have good reasons not to listen to what any economist has to say and they will be even more stubborn. But as conditions worsen during a collapse, there will be a growing and very vocal movement of people wanting change of any kind, and so social and economic upheaval become inevitable whether it is planned or forced upon a nation. This is the legacy of economic ideologies which allow the economy to become dysfunctional and stay that way for too long with policies that encourage too much debt and result in huge disparities in the distribution of wealth. And so as "change" has become the leading theme in the U.S. Presidential election, from my analysis it's going to happen whether we like it or not. I foresee epic, world changing events ahead, and most of them will probably not be pleasant.
Speaking of unpleasant, I again have been forced to delay work on the revised version of "Food for the Gods" due to health issues. The good news is that no, my cancer hasn't returned. In fact, I am past the five-year mark and am considered "cancer free". And no, my health is not getting worse due to chronic fatigue syndrome. In fact it is getting better, slowly, but the aggressive nature of the treatment has my physical strength and energy levels fluctuating up and down on an almost daily basis. I've tried to maintain a strong, healthy voice during my treatment but the fluctuations make that almost impossible, and the parts that I need to sing demand that my voice be at its peak. Its frustrating, but I am making progress on the health front, and with any luck I will be strong enough before the year is over and back in the studio to lay down more tracks.
A big ‘Hello’ to anyone receiving the Burning Blade for the first time. This is the Fireaxe newsletter.
A couple of months back Stefan of MTI Belgium asked me to do an online interview to which I readily agreed. The man who did the review for "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess", Officer Nice, sent me a number of really interesting questions and allowed me to write as much as I wanted in my answers. As you all know by now, I enjoy writing and took full advantage in the interview, which I think turned out very well. You can read it here.
And the review is here.
And see the rest of Stefan's site here.
And yeah, that first picture is me standing in front of the poster for "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess". I've still got one left if anyone is interested in a slightly blemished product. It's $20 delivered, laminated, and a full 4' x 2 ˝' in size. The second picture shows me in my studio surrounded by gear. Well, it's not a lot of gear to be honest, just enough to get by, but I will be doing some major upgrades before starting work on the new version of "A Dream of Death". Expect another big step up in sound quality when that CD is re-released.
Well, what else would a Fireaxe song be called?
I recall a somewhat negative review of "A Dream of Death" where the reviewer bemoaned my use of the words "pain" and "death" so often over the course of the CD. True, the subject matter of a typical Fireaxe song does not stray far from those subjects, nor from "god" or "dreams" as well, which are conceptually similar according to the Fireaxe theory, so it probably shouldn't be a surprise to any loyal listener that a Fireaxe song might be called "God is Pain" since I've made similar connections in many other tracks. The difference between those tracks and this one however is that on this CD the connection has never been so stark, forceful, and harsh.
Whereas "My Angel" is the emotional centerpiece of "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess", "God is Pain" is the intellectual centerpiece, providing meaning to the entire CD and tying the various thematic elements together. Throughout the first five tracks the listener experiences the agony and the ecstasy of the protagonist's life and up until this point it appears to be little more than a mere morality play, the point of which seems to be that if you do bad things like the protagonist did then you will end up suffering for them. But the very end of Death's Angel takes us in a very different direction as the protagonist is "born again" in a way not dissimilar to what happens to those who fall in with the Christian Evangelical movement. Of course, the protagonist embraces a far different god, but the elements are all the same, and it is in "God is Pain" that the phenomenon of rebirth and fierce devotion is examined.
"God is Pain" explains our need for love and acceptance as an addiction, describing how it began and how it works in all of our lives. The idea that we are all addicted to one thing or another lies at the heart of the Fireaxe theory, which posits that ideologies benefit by creating a persistent sense of inadequacy in its members, a permanent psychological deficit as I have described before, which constantly demands to be satisfied. Ideologies do well to restrict the ways in which this need must be satisfied so that its members must perform things that benefit the ideology in order to get their fix. In this way an ideologically conditioned individual will constantly be working towards goals which benefit their ideology in order to satisfy their inner need. It's the ideal system, since no one is more motivated than an addict, and complacency and contentment are eliminated as threats to the system since one always needs a fix, but is it a reasonable theory? Well, if you've ever seen the way that athletes punish their bodies and endure great pain to achieve mostly mediocre goals, or listened to the stubborn ravings of a religious fanatic who seems immune to reason and will argue with his critics with an often frightening conviction, or wondered how a person can be so driven to succeed that he lets the rest of his life fall to pieces around him, then you might have already made this connection in your minds. Those guys are addicts. And if you've seen the joy in those people's eyes when they achieve their goals you might think that there is something to that notion, at least for some people. To wit, there is already an accepted term for the case of the person who works too much: workaholic; and we often describe the feelings that we get from our successes as "highs" akin to what we experience when we take drugs. So I feel that most people would be open to the idea that you can become psychologically addicted to something in the same way that you can be physically addicted, but I also feel that people will say that these addicts are the exception, not the rule. However, the point that I am making in "God is Pain" is that it is psychological addiction which is the rule and not the exception and that we are simply pointing at those who are more addicted than we are as the only ones who have this problem.
The human brain can produce endorphins, which are as powerful a chemical as any that can be introduced into the brain, which give one feelings of pleasure and euphoria. This is how the brain naturally works, although in relatively low doses, rewarding itself when it does something good. This effect is also functional, strengthening the neural pathways used to achieve that good thing so that it can be experienced easier later. Of course, the larger the dose of endorphins, the more powerful the high, and the stronger the desire becomes to regain it. However, the reward mechanism loses its intensity each time it is re-experienced, at least if it is achieved in an identical way, like watching the same movie over and over, and so variation is important when it comes to getting either the same or a more powerful reward. Thus, when you find something that you like, you first do that thing until it becomes less enjoyable, then you do something similar to that thing, which gives you renewed enjoyment, until that becomes boring as well, and then you enjoy another variation and another until either the possibilities are exhausted or no variation gives you the reward that you desire. At that point you'll switch to something completely different to get the good feeling again. Now, some people will get bored with things much faster than others, revealing differences in people's ability to absorb new experiences, but the phenomenon works the same way for everyone. As an aside, this explains the phenomenon of fads. First a trend is started and becomes popular, then copycats follow suit, offering similar but slightly different experiences, and then eventually the entire trend dies out and a new trend starts. This is simply the marketplace reacting to the masses which are seeking out neurologically rewarding experiences and are in need of fresh fixes.
The human brain also contains chemicals which produce unpleasant feelings when something bad happens or may be about to happen. Instead of seeking these experiences out, we try to avoid them, but avoiding bad experiences is not always easy, especially when dealing with a complex environment, and so neural pathways must be built to reinforce pain avoidance techniques. It is the thrust of "God is Pain" and a central part of the Fireaxe theory that ideologies contain tenets which instill a permanent state of inadequacy in an individual and make them feel that something bad may happen to them at any time. This serves to encourage people to be more adherent to their ideologies out of fear of pain. For instance, in Christianity, a believer must live up to the impossible standards set by Jesus, and no matter how good you were during your life there is no guarantee that you will get into heaven as that decision is always left to the Christian god. Also, Christianity sets up a conflict between a believer and their own body, convincing believers that if they do not resist their natural urges that they will end up in hell. Similarly, in our modern Capitalist system, advertisers spend billions convincing us that we are inadequate in some way if we do not buy their product, and the simple fact that great wealth can be achieved by anyone gives people the impression that they are lazy, untalented, or in some other way inadequate if they are not wealthy. Also, the constant threat of losing one's job, one's health care, one's home, and so forth, due to either market forces or the whim of an executive can make one feel as if they are continually under siege. Furthermore, over-consumption, a common problem in today's capitalist society, can put one at odds with their own body as chasing pleasures, indulging to excess, and seeking out variation on those pleasures can make one obese, unhealthy, and suffering from a variety of sexually transmitted diseases. Now while ideologies do not necessarily set out to cause the very problems that they benefit from, the ones which are successful are inevitably the ones that in some way fuel themselves in this manner, whether intentional or not.
When a person is constantly beset by experiences which create negative feelings it is natural for them to seek out positive rewards to offset them. What I am suggesting in "God is Pain" is that ideologies condition a person into a state where they will constantly feel inadequate unless they have access to rewards. This produces the well known cycle of addiction, where one moves back and forth from feeling bad to feeling good depending on how often one is getting rewarded for their achievements. A constant stream of small rewards can make one feel as if they have no addiction at all, and most of us seek out routines which guarantee such access, but for those who are stuck feeling very inadequate, normal rewards do not satisfy their needs, and so they require large rewards, which often require extraordinary measures to achieve them. Because of the infrequency of attaining extraordinary rewards, people with a powerful addiction will constantly cycle from highs to lows in the way which is depicted in the song. For a while they will be drowning in depression and despair but when their creative fires have been stoked and they produce something amazing they are flying sky high, at least for a while, and then they drop back down into depression again. So, should we pity them? Perhaps, but remember that they do drive our society, since their deep sense of inadequacy creates a powerful motivation to do something spectacular. It is they who are often the ones who produce great works or do great things that help everyone, and, of course, who give us many of the positive experiences that we need to feel good ourselves. We need and often adore the severely addicted because they feed our own addictions.
So how does this addiction all get started? In the second verse of "God is Pain" I suggest that it is not something sinister, but something which we see as benevolent. However, I describe it in a very sinister way which probably made a lot of you feel uncomfortable:
"Love is a knife thrust into the heart of a child.
Innocence is torn away, enthralled by love we must obey.
Love is a drug and we are addicts,quivering, powerless, aching for more;
and as it slowly turns to gray we beg and plead, 'Don't go away.'"
Of course, there is nothing wrong with loving one's child, the problem comes in the amount of love that is administered. Love produces endorphins in the brain and the stronger the feeling the more powerful the high. Thus, excessive amounts of a "good" thing will produce an addictive dependency cycle with the child needing love on a frequent basis. It is my contention that dependency of this nature is passed from parent to child. A parent that has a strong sense of inadequacy will find a reward in creating a strong bond of love between themselves and their child. This bond is created by the mechanism of positive reinforcement via endorphins and made stronger through variations just like any other form of conditioning. Once established in sufficient strength, the parent receives their fix when they share their love with their child and the child becomes similarly addicted over time.
Now, once the child is dependent on receiving love from a parent, the parent has control of a powerful motivating force. They can use the power of withholding that love to make their child jump through whatever hoops they require. It may sound sinister when put in those terms, but that is what is going on whether the parents are doing it intentionally or not. Many parents have a need to see their children excel and personalize their children's successes and failures. The parents will then either reward their children when they succeed or become disappointed in them when they do not. The child soon learns that in order to continue to get their fix they need to do the things that make their parents proud of them. This is how ideological notions of inadequacy and the cycle of dependency can be passed from generation to generation in a non-verbal way.
With this in mind we can look back at the first five tracks of the CD and see things in a new light. The protagonist inherited his addiction from his parents and in the slow part of "Masters of the Universe" we learn that he did all the wicked things that he did in order to be successful and thus make his parents proud of him. Also, his addiction was what caused him to turn to those wicked ways, but not until after he realized that he would never get his reward by doing things by the rules. One way or another his addiction was going to get satisfied, for you see, within each of us there is a beast that needs to feed, and the beasts in some are hungrier than the beasts in others, and so the result is constant struggle in a world awash in ideologies which motivate their believers through psychological addiction. No wonder we act like animals when we want something.
Furthermore, the torture of the protagonist by the antagonist throughout the CD is a struggle between two strongly addicted individuals willing to do anything, no matter how painful or depraved, to get what they crave. Also the protagonist's "angel", though in love with the protagonist, surrenders to the smooth talking liar who promises a more powerful and satisfying romantic experience, one which gets her hooked on the liar's passion which was stronger than what the protagonist gave her. Furthermore, the smooth talking liar himself is addicted to seducing women, going through one after another in order to satisfy his needs. And lastly, the antagonist feels the need to go on a righteous crusade to take over the firm, clean it up, and spread the new economic gospel. It is psychological addictions and what they make people do that form the grisly storyline of "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess".
And of the point I made about rebirth earlier, an addiction will find a way to achieve satisfaction, potentially taking the host down roads that he does not want to travel. In "Death's Angel" the protagonist pacifies his addiction with overindulgence in sex, drugs, and anything else that he can buy since he can no longer achieve the kind of success that used to satisfy him. When deprived of those fixes he finds a new fix, although a very dark one, in getting revenge against all those who brought him pain. Now, while the religious may call this a surrender to evil whereas when they are born again it is a surrender to good, but regardless of the ideology to which one converts and the relativistic terms used to describe their nature the substance remains the same: born again type "crusaders" are merely using religion as a fix to satisfy their psychological addictions. But each fix never lasts for long and the demands for getting the next are steep, and thus, "God is Pain".
There is a somewhat mysterious line at the end of the second verse where I suggest that as the pleasure and rapture of getting one's fix is fading away, we invite the pain back into our lives. That may seem a little too inexplicable and so I feel the need to discuss it some more. In the original lyrics I had a third verse which explains this concept a little better but I cut it out since I needed to squeeze the project on to a single eighty minute CD. The verse was as follows:
"Nothing tastes as sweet as something that we've fought for,
no victory complete, unless our foe is strong and ruthless.
Nothing satisfies like that which was so long denied,
and there the answer lies, to feel the joy we must relive the pain."
The idea here is that a high is only satisfying if the struggle to attain it was difficult, and so when we need that special fix to offset deep feelings of inadequacy we seek out rewards that are hard to achieve, thus inviting the pain and suffering that will come from such an endeavor. As the weightlifters say, "no pain, no gain" and this is true on a psychological level as well. Unfortunately, as the addict discovers, the greater the high, the harder the crash and the deeper the addiction becomes. When one attains a great reward it often has the effect of making one less satisfied when it wears off, and thus success can become an obsession.
The next two parts of the song describe the cycle of addiction as it pertains to religion and then to politics. These are both in the classic nihilistic Fireaxe vein and I enjoyed writing and recording them immensely. The religion in question can be any of the major monotheistic ones and the politics described can be of any political party. Please do not think that what I wrote is only relevant to "those other guys". I seek to be an equal opportunity disbeliever and skeptic and am not trying to hold anyone's beliefs, religious or political, above criticism. I see our allegiances to our churches and political parties as being very much based in conditioning and addiction of the type I described in the song.
In the third part of the song I work my way towards the epic "Tell me what I want to hear" chorus which describes the nearly blind obedience to one's conditioned "narrative" that can be seen rather clearly in our society today. By narrative I am referring to an ideological perspective on the present, the future, and an often very revisionist version of the past which ties everything together to make one's political or religious beliefs appear to be the one true way. With the rise of politically biased news channels and the advent of the internet which plays host to every flavor of narrative, especially extremist ones which do not generate enough of a following to afford a more public platform, one can tune in to the narrative of their choice and absorb local and world events as told through an ideological prism which matches their own. Thus, in this day and age you can be well informed while never having been exposed to anything that contradicts your current view of the world. The result that we have people who know an awful lot about certain things and yet are completely wrong about them. Yes, ideologies have adapted to the information age. Perhaps we should call this the "disinformation age". When a person becomes conditioned to accepting a certain narrative they derive pleasure from it just like any other addiction and they resist being exposed to alternate narratives, with the exception of those with a "crusader" type mentality who expose themselves to alternate narratives in order to defeat them in their mind, or in an internet forum, and receive a neurological reward for their trouble.
The third part of the song ends with the following line which sums up the crux of the problem: "In the mind a shining lie is stronger than the deepest truth." Ideologies can always offer up a version of reality that is more appealing than anything the truth can offer. Would you rather believe that you go to heaven when you die or that you rot in the ground for all eternity? Would you rather believe that you evolved from a monkey or that you were created in the image of a god? Would you rather believe that your political party is righteous and has all the answers or that all forms of government evolve to become corrupt, self-serving, and resistant to change? And would you rather believe that you are in complete control of your life, your beliefs, and your thoughts, or that you are a product of and slave to your upbringing, your environment, and your brain chemistry? It's not just that people like to hear good things, they need to hear good things and that's what makes the truth so hard to accept.
I feel the need for this disclaimer: Fireaxe is not about becoming popular or accepted and thus I have no intention of telling you what you want to hear. That is why the music sounds the way that it does and why this newsletter often slaughters sacred cows and turns them into hamburger.
The last part of the song brings the story back into the torture room where we hear the protagonist and antagonist going at each other once again. The protagonist claims that he and his "freedom fighters" became a threat to the antagonist's god, but the antagonist objects, believing his god to be of the omnipotent type. The protagonist, in turn, mocks that notion, laying down the ultimate truth that a god is only a symbol that is held in place by raw power, in this case, the Firm, which the two rivals helped rise to prominence. At this point in the story, the Firm has become the most influential force in the world, controlling the most power nation on earth and using that power to force all other nations into obedience, in essence becoming like a god, but in the last line of the song the protagonist tells the interrogator that he knows that such a god can die and implies that he knows how to kill it.
The protagonist's silver bullet, a lie, is what he uses to kill the god that the Firm has become, as we find out in the final track, but the groundwork for that revelation is all laid out in this track so if you want to understand the CD you need to understand "God is Pain". You see, the antagonist is an addict, addicted to the need to champion his god and defeat those who threaten it. Furthermore, his addiction is so strong that he needs to go to extremes to satisfy it, such as the way he hunted down the protagonist, breaking every law in his thirst for justice, in the eighth track. So when the protagonist sells him on the ultimate lie, that the world is full of doomsday weapons and assassins trying to destroy everything that the antagonist holds dear, the protagonist knows that his divinely addicted rival will not let the truth stand in his way of his need to save the world for his god. It doesn't matter that such a plot doesn't exist, the antagonist believes in it, and that is enough to send him off on a self-destructive rampage.
The music in "God is Pain" is very dynamic, swinging from intense passages to sedate ones and back and forth, always building to climaxes and dropping down to soothing passages before building to the next powerful moment. My only regret in the song is that the "Tell me what I want to hear" chorus doesn't quite jump out at the listener as much as I wanted. Perhaps the listener is suffering from a little fatigue due to the length and intensity of the song or perhaps I just needed to change a few more things around to make it work better, but other than that I think that this is another classic Fireaxe track.
The up and down swings in the music match the points that I am trying to make about psychological addiction and the emotional swings that accompany it. This song pounds you down and then lifts you back up only to pound you back down again. You feel the life of an addict with its many peaks and valleys, but it is not the same thing over and over of course. Variations are the key to powerful rewards. So the first two verses switch back and forth quickly while the second two build slowly, peak and then take you down slowly. Those second two verses, the ones that deal with politics and religion are my favorite musically as well as lyrically, with the two matching each other to create a powerful whole.
And I would be remiss not to mention my favorite guitar solo of the entire CD. In between the first two verses and the second two is a towering passage featuring pounding rhythms, forceful choral parts, and a solo where I pretty much outdid myself, stretching my talents to the limit to make this part of the song sensational, or at least I, and at least a few others, think so. If you like this style of metal, you are in luck because I plan to take Fireaxe even more into the "classically influenced but still hardcore metal" direction in the next new release. Expect to hear much more like that in the future.
What can I say about this song? I love it. I absolutely love it. No, that's not self worship, it's just that I surprised myself by writing a song that I feel is probably the catchiest Fireaxe track of them all. So whenever I spin it I feel the urge to air-guitar and bob my head to the beat as I envision the arrogant fat cats of the world getting their comeuppance. Put quite simply, it's a fun song, and it contains a surprising amount of energy, which is what the listener needs after the long, slow track before it.
But as much as the song is about violent revolution against a corrupt corporate controlled state, its role in the CD is somewhat contrary to the perceived intentions. The point is not to tell the truth about the current state of the world, although there is a lot of truth in the song, but to follow a narrative which incites people to rise up and force a change in the system in the hopes of achieving something better. This song is the lie, told via half-truths, that the protagonist uses to encourage his "freedom fighters" to lay siege to the mansions of the rich and generate an ugly spectacle which will eventually place him in a position to deliver his ultimate lie to the antagonist. You see, coming up with the perfect lie is only one part of the process of making someone believe it. No, you have to drive it home with fear and pain, as described in the previous track, and so the protagonist knows that if he can start a movement that poses a threat to the antagonist, the antagonist will be far more likely to believe the protagonist's lie. And so the song is in essence the rallying cry of the oppressed against their corporate masters, portraying the powerful as uncaring and corrupt, and demanding that they be exposed, held to account, and if they are truly despicable, put to death.
That being said, there nothing in the song which can really be called a lie. Opening up a newspaper on any given day will expose you to a number of stories that capture the points that are made in the song regarding the sorry state of modern capitalism, at least as it is practiced in countries exposed to an unhealthy amount of neo-liberal economics. It omits large amounts of what is positive about capitalism though, and thus falls in line with the typical leftist and socialist narratives regarding the state of the world and what needs to be done to save it. In many ways it is a mirror image of "Masters of the Universe" which is closer to the conservative, right wing narrative, although I exaggerated the extreme positions of the protagonist in "Masters of the Universe" more then in "Viva la Revoluction". It may seem like I am playing favorites here, being easier on the left than the right, but in truth I tend to side against the people in power no matter what their beliefs, so with the right wing being in charge they are getting the harsher treatment, at least for now.
Perhaps my favorite part of this song is the "Open the Books" chorus. If there is ever going to be a motto for the war against corporate corruption, this has to be it. By the time the current financial collapse is finished and firm after firm has either been laid to waste or bailed out with massive government intervention if We the People don't rise up and demand far more transparency in both the public and private sectors than we have now then we deserve to have every last scrap of wealth stolen from us. We will soon learn that Enron was the rule, not the exception. We will soon realize that the numbers that come out of trusted institutions such as banks and the government are either faith-based or completely fabricated. And we will soon know that de-regulation is the same as leaving the cookie jar open on the bottom shelf while you leave your children next to it completely unattended, except that the result isn't a bunch of fat kids that have ruined their dinner it’s a bunch of fat cat executives and their errand-boy bureaucrats who have ruined the country. And while it's true that the current system can work, with changes, and, as described earlier, with some aggressive redistribution of wealth to get things rolling again, I would bet dollars to doughnuts, well perhaps I should say that I would bet gold and silver against lattes and kripsy cremes since dollars are losing their value with shocking rapidity, that most of the world will opt for something much different than Democracy and Capitalism as they stand today. Perhaps a few nations will give Fascism another try. In any event, the baby is going to go out with the bathwater.
"Viva la Revolucion" has a Latin American theme, both in the music and in the chorus where I shout out some Spanish phrases. This is because the protagonist ended up in some non-descript Central or South American country in "Death's Angel" and so I thought that I would add the character of those nations into the CD. In many countries south of the border a man can live like a king if they have a rather modest amount of money saved up due to the depressed standard of living there. When one compares the distribution of wealth between the rich and the poor, the U.S. even at its most extreme point in the last century, which is today, falls short of the majority of its neighbors to the south. The result of such a disparity is a nation where the wealthy few are served by the poor and impoverished masses who have no choice but to serve for whatever the rich are willing to pay them. That environment has been a fertile breeding ground for communism and socialist revolutions and so it is no accident that the protagonist ended up there since it dovetails into the theme of the CD.
But the burning question that I sense out there is: what are the meanings of those Spanish phrases? Well, Spanish isn't the most consistent language in the world, and although there are plenty of native Spanish speakers where I live, a mere ten miles from the border with Mexico, they each gave me different translations of what I wanted to sing. So I ended up converging on something which is probably close enough to what I wanted that it should pass for Spanish. With that being said, "matemos el ricos" means "kill the rich" and "queme los elites" means "burn the elites". And in case anyone is interested, yes it is really hard to roll your r's when you are singing, especially for someone who'd never rolled an r even when speaking prior to recording the song.
Regarding the music, this is one more example of Fireaxe fusing together metal and some other musical style, in this case, Latin rock. In "Food for the Gods" I merged Persian and Judaic music into "Gods of War" and "Woe is Israel" and felt that those experiments were successful enough to continue the trend. From the high-hat work in the drumming to the wide-ranging rhythms in the chorus which added the feel of a horn section, this song does have both a Latin and metal vibe I think that it's pretty cool. The lively beat and chorus provide a nice break from the slower and more plodding tracks on the second half of the CD, adding some musical spice in the midst of exceedingly dark songs about pain, death, and torture. It stands out, and yet it blends in.
And yes, I am aware that it follows the conventional ABACAB format and has a radio friendly duration. I like to throw in one or two songs that can be pulled out as stand alone tracks for radio play on my CDs. I realize that I need to make a few concessions to help you folks out there who have radio shows spread the word about Fireaxe and so "Viva la Revolucion" and "Masters of the Universe" were crafted with you in mind. But in my opinion the concessions didn't affect the overall CD much if at all. The story switches from scene to scene in the protagonist's life and so many of the songs can be pulled out and played as stand alone pieces without diminishing their impact on the story. Of course when they are all rolled together, they become much more powerful.
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
- 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
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:
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.
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.
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:Brian Voth - Creator of Fireaxe
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.
- 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.
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