The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 2.5

Aug 2, 1999

"Once more shall the gardens of Zais
Dawn white on my long tortured vision,
And there midst the vapors of Yabon
Will stand the divine Nathicana;"
- Fireaxe (H.P. Lovecraft) "Nathicana"

The stars are right.

The yawning vortex opens wide.

Your sanity is vanity.

The long wait is over. Finally, after months of delays the Lovecraftian Nightmares CD is complete. Ten poems of madness, despair, hopelessness and horror are poised to haunt the digital dimension and wreak untold havoc on the unsuspecting masses.

This issue of The Burning Blade will document the features of the latest Fireaxe CD such as how it was recorded, what's new and improved, interesting side notes, and instructions on how to order your very own copy.

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

How to order "Lovecraftian Nightmares"

Order your copy of the second Fireaxe CD "Lovecraftian Nightmares" by doing the following:

  • 1. Send me e-mail requesting the new CD and giving your address (if you prefer, you can send your address via snail mail)
  • 2. Mail $5 ($7 if overseas) and a note requesting the Fireaxe CD "Lovecraftian Nightmares" to the following address. Make sure to include your return address.

Brian Voth
21426 Lake Forest Dr. Apt H
Lake Forest, CA, 92630 USA

If you review CDs on a website or in a magazine, the CD is free of charge in exchange for the review. In this case all I need is the e-mail request. Please send me the URL of your review site or copy of your magazine with the review in it when it is ready. 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 CD comes with a booklet filled with awesome art, a picture of yours truly in his studio, and some information about the CD which can also be found on this website.

How the 'Nightmare' was crafted

The "Lovecraftian Nightmares" project began over 7 years ago with a single poem put to music. That poem was Nathicana. Using an old 4 track recorder and a bare minimum home studio, the one-hundred line poem was crafted into a fifteen minute epic. Although I'd recorded several songs over the years, none of them were as well received as Nathicana. It was a landmark song in the history of Fireaxe. It was the song which put the idea in my head that I could write and record songs that other people appreciated. It was the first Fireaxe song.

After Nathicana I searched for other poems by H. P. Lovecraft to put to music. With the help of a friend I dug up a collection of Lovecraft's poetry and began turning the poems into music. It was a departure from the way I usually wrote music. I followed the standard pop/rock method of coming up with a chorus which captures some basic idea and hammering it home until people can't get it out of their heads and are forced to buy your CD. When setting Lovecraftian poems set to music I would read through the poem, get a feel for the tempo and emotions in the piece, and concoct a lyrical melody which complimented the verses. Because Lovecraft's poetry wasn't written with the standard pop/rock lyrical format (four short rhyming verses followed by a repeated chorus), creating music to fit the novel structures took me in musical directions that I'd never gone before. I had to write music with much longer verses with sometimes odd and irregular numbers of lines. This was something which improved my song writing ability by letting me break free of a lot of the usual pop/rock genre constraints. Every song on "Lovecraftian Nightmares" has a style all it's own with the poems dictating what the music needs to do and not the other way around.

Eight poems by H.P. Lovecraft were turned into songs and put on the original "Lovecraftian Nightmares" demo tape. The recording quality was not great but the underlying music still received a lot of positive feedback. Since that initial release I'd wanted to record all the songs over again using better equipment and methods but it wasn't until after the release of "A Dream of Death" that the idea became reality. The new recordings sound 100% better than the old and the new recording methods allowed me to make several additions and improvements to those 'ancient tracks'. Also, the twelve extra minutes on the CDs allowed me to add two new songs. These were also created from poems, but these poems were not written by Lovecraft. Instead they were sent to me by Octavio Ramos who contacted me via the internet about putting some of his works to music. His poems are fantastic and I had no problems adding them alongside those of H.P.L.

When all was said and done, ten Lovecraftian style poems were set to music in a jam packed 73 minute long CD. The range of expressiveness and emotions captured is surprisingly large. This CD won't beat you over the head with a single 'sound', but will come at you from all angles. The CD transcends the metal genre and is accessible to anyone with any musical taste.

Of course, that brings up the issue of whether Fireaxe has 'sold out' with this CD. The simple answer is no. I remember one Fireaxe listener who wrote me an e-mail a couple of years back who, after receiving a copy of the "Lovecraftian Nightmares" demo tape, told me that it had commercial potential. What an insult! (snicker). It's true that "Lovecraftian Nightmares" is not the emotionally over the top, borderline schizophrenic, biting social criticism that "A Dream of Death" was, but it still makes no pretense of trying to appeal to the current marketing trends. You'll find no lovesick divas, testosterone crazed screamers, or mindlessly repetitious techno beats on this disk. Instead you'll find ten well crafted, beautiful songs about insanity and death. It has an edge, but it sneaks up on you. My goal was, as always, to create music that I liked. If you like it too then so much the better, if not, just give your mouse a couple of clicks.

The New and the Improved

What's New? The drum machine is the biggest new thing on the "Lovecraftian Nightmares" CD. Gone is the old Roland TR-505 which was used for the original Lovecraftian Nightmares tape, the Unholy Rapture tape, and the CD "A Dream of Death". In is the new Roland R-8mkII "Human Rhythm Composer". The drum samples on this machine are very realistic and the programming capabilities are good enough to make it sound like a real drummer. This machine made a big difference to the sound quality, even when it was used to duplicate the old TR-505 patterns. But the real improvement came when the machine's full capabilities were used for songs like "Despair" and "Whispers in the Night". In "Despair" the drum track sounds like an ominous clock, surrounding the listener with slow beats and chimes. In "Whispers" the drum track sounds so good that you'd swear it was a real drummer. In short, a Fireaxe deficiency has been turned into a positive.

What's Improved? Everything. First of all, the vocal tracks are greatly improved. My home studio was upgraded to include a mike stand and p-popper (no more holding the mike while singing) which helped immensely. And I've worked harder on making my singing voice stronger and sharper. If you own the old tape, you'll hear a major difference in the vocal quality, especially in "Nightmare Lake" which sounds fantastic this time around. In my opinion, with the vocals another minus has been turned into a plus. Also, the guitar tone has been refined and cleaned up since "A Dream of Death". It has even more driving power as is evident on "Beyond Zimbabwe" and the signature double axe attack delivers some stunning rhythms and breathtaking harmonies. The bass guitar is also improved and is more prominent in the mix. The sound quality on the CD is really good. You will be impressed.

Another area of great improvement is with the art. "A Dream of Death" received a lot of compliments for its artwork, and I am not being overly dramatic when I say that the art on the new CD makes the old disc look second rate. Kevin Dvorscak has done a fantastic job with the new logo, the cover art, the digitized effects, and the beautiful misty Nathicana collage inside the booklet. In it, model Georgia Papadakis makes a perfect Nathicana in my opinion. She's soft, seductive, and her eyes will capture your soul. But has she a "likeness ... not met with in living"? Well, obviously no, but Georgia is the next best thing. You'll be blown away with the look of the new CD, it's as good or better than professional work. So much so that I will be selling mini-posters (11" x 17") of the Nathicana collage and CD cover for $4 dollars each to anyone who's interested. I'd sell full size posters but print shops charge a ridiculous price for them ($10 per square foot). But if you want to pay a ridiculous price for one, put an arm, leg, and your first born son in the mail to me and I will have one printed and sent to you.

If, after seeing the great work he has done on the new CD, you want to hire Kevin for work with anything that you want to do, check out his incredibly slick new Java based website.

Website Updates

The Fireaxe site has undergone a mild refurbishing. It now sports the brand new Fireaxe logo and has been updated to pitch the latest Fireaxe CD "Lovecraftian Nightmares". There you can get a better idea of what the CD looks and sounds like as well as learn a little more about the project.

Two songs off of the new CD have been added to the Fireaxe site There you can download "Beyond Zimbabwe" and "Nightmare Lake" in high quality MP3 format.

On a sad note, the Fireaxe virtual concert site on geocities has been shut down. This was a deliberate action on my part. I decided to do it after Yahoo! bought geocities and forced all the old members to sign their e-contract. Buried within that contract was a clause that effectively surrendered all the rights you had to anything put on your website to Yahoo! It was a truly disgusting bit of corporate subterfuge. I didn't appreciate the tactic and I wrote an interesting rebuttal which I put in place of the virtual concert home page. Unless it's been taken down, you can read it here.

The meaning of the songs - "Whispers in the Night" and "Hounds of Tindalos"

Some of you have written to me wanting to know what a particular song means. One good use of this newsletter would be to tell you all what the songs mean (at least to me) as well as give some other comments about how they were written and anything else interesting. This issue will look at the two new songs on the new Fireaxe CD "Lovecraftian Nightmares": "Whispers in the Night" and "Hounds of Tindalos". All the other songs on the CD have been written about in previous issues of the Burning Blade.

A side note here is that these two songs are the first Fireaxe collaborations that have made it to CD. Octavio Ramos wrote the poems and e-mailed them to me to be turned into songs. Since he wrote the lyrics, I've let him tell a little about what went through his mind while writing the poems. Here's Octavio's introduction:

"Years ago, I had aspirations about becoming a musician. I even wanted to
play in a heavy metal band, but nothing ever came of those dreams, until now."

"One day, bored with work, I surfed through the Internet, looking for sites
that in any way were inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, one of my favorite writers.
It was while surfing that I found the Fireaxe page and discovered Brian
Voth's music." [Editor's note - Surfing the internet during
work hours can be dangerous. Always be sure to have a spreadsheet or Word
document up in the background just in case the boss walks by at the wrong time.]

"Taking a change, I wrote Brian and soon we began to collaborate. You will be
impressed with what he has done with the two songs I have written. The guitar
is amazing and the mood changes soar though imaginary vistas. Buy the CD
and enjoy what I already know: Brian Voth and Fireaxe are forces to be
reckoned with."

Whispers in the Night. This is the poem that Octavio first sent me to put to music. It sold me on his skills pretty fast. Here's what he has to say about it:

"There's a deep-rooted need in some people to discover forbidden
knowledge or to glimpse at some aloof truth. Philosophers try to think their
way through it, writers write about, scientists use observation and
experimentation, clergy pray for it, and poets write poems about it."

"The imagery is simple and direct. Many of the images are taken
from short stories I have written. For example, the creatures called Void
Thralls are taken from my story "Void Thralls." The Worship Pylon"
comes from "Brain Sleep," another tale. And the Half-Man comes from
my novel, The Silent Sound of Screaming. Lovecraft lives in the song
through image and direct reference (The Thing That Should Not Be)."

"The song basically deals with an individual obsessed with going
beyond thought. This person manages to break though to the other side, but
once there he discovers that thought is a complex industry and that
creatures literally feed on humanity's imagination. When the Half-Man
intones that the "Worship pylon is not for you," he refers to a massive
obelisk around which the faithful blindly serve a god or belief as
salvation. When this person returns to consciousness, he tries to resist
the whispers from beyond, but at length he is seduced by the knowledge
and is driven insane."

The music mirrors the storyteller's descent into madness. It begins slow and quiet. Voices whisper to the intrepid dreamer, luring him toward the dark recesses of truth. Eventually he breaks through and begins to discover the universe's hidden secrets. The music breaks through into an energetic driving rhythm which simulates the story teller's avid pursuit of knowledge. Then, at last, the whole truth is revealed and the horror is unleashed. The energetic rhythm turns into a slow, monstrous, heaving symphony of doom. It gradually builds into a crescendo of dizzying madness and then slowly fades away.

This song came together perfectly. It has incredible range and flows from one end to the other smoothly. From it's simple beginnings it's hard to imagine that it will end so dramatically. Part of the credit has to go to Octavio and the way that he wrote his poem. I just followed his lead and out popped what could very well be the best song on the CD.

Another thing I did in this song is personalized it for Octavio. I started thinking about him playing my CD for other people and telling them that he wrote "Whispers in the Night". He'd probably run into a few people who thought that he was full of it. So one of the lines that gets whispered right before the song gets fast is "Join us, Octavio". So now he need not worry about being doubted.

Hounds of Tindalos. This is the winning entry in my impromptu contest. I announced in this newsletter that anyone who wanted a poem turned into a song for the new CD to send it in. In those entries I received another excellent poem from Octavio. Here's what he has to say about "Hounds":

"After writing "Whispers in the Night," I wanted to develop
a song with sheer driving power. I wanted the lyrics to be crisp, short,
and snarling, so I wrote "Hounds of Tindalos." The song follows the
story by Frank Belknap Long. The cadence I tried to develop was one
of pursuit, which is how the story worked for me when I first read it.
The so-called hounds literally ooze fear and scintillate dismay, and
those were the feelings I wanted to capture."

And capture them he did with vivid lines such as:

"The drug has yet to take it's toll,
as it courses through my abhorred soul."

"Yet nothing forms but the pain and fear,
I cannot see I cannot hear,"

"As ions twist and atoms scatter,
energy is pounded into matter."

This song packs a wallop with some fast driving Fireaxe powerthrash. It does a pretty good job of capturing the panicked emotions of the storyteller as he fears for his life. Each verse is like a new wave of attacks which increase the intensity and build tension. At the end of each verse the attacks subside and the fears and laments of the storyteller stand out bright and strong.

"Hounds" is the only song on the CD with a chorus. Octavio wrote one in with the knowledge that it was going to be turned into a song. The chorus is charged with power and pounds away without mercy. The listener is left a smoking husk. Without a doubt this is one song on the CD that you should crank as loud as you possibly can. You need to get the full effect of the drums, bass, and double axe attack to truly appreciate this it. And if you crank it loud enough you won't have to worry about the neighbors, they'll be taken care of...

The Future

Over the last year, I've been thinking of some new song ideas revolving around a theme of religious warfare, fundamentalism, and ideological conflict. Although we feel safe in our modern world that open warfare and chaos cannot happen in our "sane" and "stable" society, nothing could be further from the truth. Volatility seems to be at an all time high for the latter half of this century. Throughout the world people are embracing extremism in greater and greater numbers. These people's beliefs are far outside the mainstream and they are willing to commit all manner of atrocity to support those beliefs. It appears that this situation will only escalate. The next Fireaxe CD (after "Lovecraftian Nightmares") will explore this theme. It will examine why people embrace radical ideologies, explore the emotions which typify extremism, and study the seeds of violence which are prevalent in our society. The CD will be titled "Food for the Gods" meaning that WE are the food for the gods. Any extremist ideology is effectively "God" and people are slaughtered or enslaved in that God's name (i.e. the ideology feeds on the bodies of the slain and beaten down). The CD will fit loosely around the themes in "A Dream of Death" but will explore the more violent aspects of belief in depth. If you ever wondered what drives a person to kill and commit horrible acts, "Food for the Gods" will try to answer that question. It will be an extremely intense CD.

In light of the recent Columbine High School incident, and the following Conyers, Georgia shooting (a city one Fireaxe listener hails from), it's become apparent that the eventual release of "Food for the Gods" might meet with a lot of objections. The CD will glorify violence in parts, it will be graphic, it will be intense, and it will capture all manner of 'negative' emotions. I feel that there is simply no other way to approach the subject matter. One song planned for the CD will be an examination of the explosive suicide trend which has swept not only through our high schools, but through the general public as well. One thing I could do is to scrap my plans for the CD and produce something more socially acceptable. I won't. Another thing I could do is put up a false righteousness and claim that the CD is really against violence. It isn't. What I will do is stay true to my concept and produce the CD that I envision. In other words, "Damn the false prophets and the true believers, full speed ahead!".

The opposition to violence in art and media is truly hypocritical. Watching Bill Clinton proclaiming that "violence is not the answer" while at the same time bombing the crap out of Serbia and Kosovo is truly the pinnacle of cognitive dissonance. He says one thing and does another. If there is any message coming from the White House, it is that when you can't get what you want, violence is the solution. Columbine is only a reflection of the big picture. The big picture is what I will attempt to reveal in "Food for the Gods".

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 CDs for $5 each which covers the production and mailing costs. For CDs sent out of the country, I'll have to charge $7 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. 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?
  • 6. 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.
  • 7. Fireaxe will not be held responsible for the destruction of hopes and dreams that may come while listening to this CD. Also, any subsequent social revolution which follows from this CD is simply not my fault. It's all part of the big picture. Just listen to the disk and you'll understand what I mean.
  • 8. 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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