The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 3.2

Jan 28, 2000

"Power and games, lovers and shame,
and numerous pleasures to keep yourself sane.
We are all slaves, from the cradle to the grave,
the difference: the length of the chain."
- Fireaxe "DeathMachine"

For those of us whose portfolios haven't yet made us millionaires, perhaps its refreshing to know that the wealthy in this country remain enslaved to their pathological cravings for money, power, and any source of relief from their daily misery. Except for the fact that they relieve themselves upon us. But what does it matter if we are all getting richer? If we're going to get abused, we might as well get paid in the process, and the more money, the better.

I can think of nothing better that sums up the current state of the "American dream".

I am committed to keeping Fireaxe a source of free expression. The music is free and I will fight to keep it that way. One reason is to defend the idea that art should be kept free of commercial influence. Another is to limit the amount of economic entropy that is slowly but surely destroying us. Others on the internet agree, and pour themselves into work that costs only a click of the mouse. To them I owe a debt of thanks. You are sincerely appreciated.

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

More reviews of "Lovecraftian Nightmares"

It was a slow holiday season, only one review to report, yet it was a gem:

"Word. Brian Voth's one-man-band, Fireaxe, is absolutely some
of the best fucking metal I've heard in a long time. Fireaxe is not
about shocking you with Satan and it's not about living up to your
preconceived notion of what heavy metal ought to look like; but it
is ALL about making quality music that comes from the soul. Voth
doesn't screech out garbley-gook and call it noise; he actually sings
...and quite well. I haven't heard an underground musician this
skilled on the guitar since Frizzle was in Bella Morte. If you like
metal, but hate the camp associated with it, then you must ferociously
seek out Fireaxe. You won't be sorry." - Goddess of Dark Velvet

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.

The meaning of the songs - "A Wrench in the Works" and "One Last Kiss"

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 complete the look into the Fireaxe CD "A Dream of Death" with the ninth and tenth tracks, "All in Flames" and "Where's the Sun?".

A Wrench in the Works. This is one of my favorite songs off the CD. After an full hour of musical twists and turns this song deals the listener yet another surprise both musically and thematically. The previous track, "Where's the Sun?" leaves the listener in a state of wordless emptiness. The energy has drained away and it seems like a perfect time to finish the CD. But instead of the sound of silence, the listener is drawn back into the world of pain. The protagonist is about to face his nemesis and creator, a computer that calls itself the brain of the social machine.

The song ramps up smoothly with a voice over that lays down the rhythm for the rest of the song. The drums, guitars, and bass then cut in for a quick chorus to punctuate the shock felt by the protagonist. Then the guitars abruptly stop leaving the drums, bass, and vocals to reveal the awful truth. The part I like most about this song is how both the revealed truth and the music build up into powerful waves that crash into listener. They begin with only the bass and drums, then distorted guitars are added - muted at first and then full volume, then finally the chorus hits with a highly charged guitar solo. Each wave is played a key or two higher than the last which serves to build the tension wonderfully, save for the final climactic wave that returns back to the lowest key to drive home the most awful truth of them all.

In keeping with the machine theme of the song, the rhythm and style of the song is slow and deliberate, like a machine. The cyclical waves in the song also reflect this theme, building and releasing with mechanical frequency. All of this serves to create the ideal backdrop for the thematic pinnacle of the CD.

If the CD had ended with the eighth track, the story would have been a powerful tragedy, capturing the plight of all those who fight the system and go down in flames. But my goal in this CD was not to tell the story of the tragic life of a single person, but to graphically depict the disintegration of the entire human race. For this I needed to add five more horrifying layers to the already very discomforting plot.

The first layer tells of the history of civilization, but from a different perspective than the classic "march of progress" theme that most of us are taught:

"A long time ago people like you
used to tear up the world and made a mess of it too.
They were unsatisfied and partly insane.
They spread their disease with destruction and pain.
They slaughtered the gods and smashed all the dreams
and held themselves up as rulers supreme.
They were brand new gods with brand new dreams,
a more powerful order, a stronger machine."

History is replete with examples. This cycle has been repeated over and over throughout the centuries. Through the ancient Assyrian slaughters and the Roman conquests, through the Dark Ages and the age of Divine Right of Kings, through the age of enlightenment and the rise of the Third Reich, the basic theme of the destruction of the old order and its replacement with the new is ever-present and always seems accompanied by war and death commanded by uncompromising individuals who would hold up their ideals as the ultimate truth. Our current society of voracious capitalists who champion freedom is no different. But there is little room for freedom in capitalism since we must produce and consume as fast as we possibly can so that we can economically conquer the world. Hypocritically, this is all done in the name of liberty. The implication in the song is that the only difference in each conquering system is the ideals it champions. And the only way that it can destroy the old order is to build a more powerful order, one built on ideals that turn its people into a more productive and lethal social machine.

The second layer tells of the birth of the antagonist, the "master of dreams":

"The cycles continued and took their toll,
the machine got so big it was out of control.
So one of those lunatics built the ultimate tool,
a thinking computer with the power to rule.
And so I was born and grew up in a day,
and learned all the secrets to make humans obey.
They are just pawns and I am the king
'cause I sold them the dreams that make their hearts sing."

This layer adds a little bit of a science fiction twist to the plot. Our society isn't controlled by a computer, or for that matter any single person, group, organization, or god. Our society is an emergent system that no one controls nor even fully understands. It acts more like a herd, moving impulsively with conviction in an ever changing direction, believing only that where it is going will be better than where it has been.

I believe that in time our advances in artificial intelligence will deliver to us what we desperately crave, and that is something powerful and intelligent enough to direct and organize our society. And although most people would recoil in horror at the thought of having something controlling their life, these very same people willingly turn their lives over to an imagined higher power and pledge allegiance to the ideals of the emergent social order. Any reasonably intelligent computer, or individual as we have seen ad naseum, can learn to control people by selling them the dreams that they desire. But a computer with intelligence far beyond a human being would be able to remove the arbitrariness of our emergent social system, deliver more of the dreams that it promises, and forge an order where individuals are far more effective in playing their parts in the great social machine. And people will embrace this system and believe that it was the way things were meant to be.

The third layer tells of the stagnation of the social order that the computer generates and the solution it comes up with to end the stagnation:

"I built a brave new world for the human race,
a model of efficiency at breakneck pace.
But as good as it was it was getting stale,
progress was stagnant, we were doomed to fail.
I needed a spark to set things alight,
a man on a mission who was ready to fight.
To burn down the old and make way for the new,
to cleanse this world and that's why I made you."

"I broke your back on the rack,
gave you a life full of pain.
I made you hate everything,
then I watched you shatter the dream."

The trouble that I see happening with a social order that a computer would initially create is that it would become very efficient by removing the internal conflicts in the society. This would cause stagnation since conflict and dissension is needed for society to progress. So the computer searches through human history and sees that social progress was created by uncompromising individuals that became dissatisfied with the way things were and set out to change the world, destroying parts of it in the process if necessary. It decides to create another individual like that intentionally so that he would destroy the dreams that had built but stagnated the computer's well run society. To do that the computer has to resort to the old methods of creating a rogue: torture, pain, and a trail of broken dreams.

The fourth layer tells of the computer's prediction that the protagonist's struggle will result in a civil war:

"For as we speak dissension abounds,
they heard your words and they spread them around.
They no longer want to be a part of the dream,
revolution is coming I can hear them scream.
There will be death! There will be pain!
There will be war and millions will be slain.
And I will be there as the champion
of the dream they created to capture the sun."

At this point the computer begins to sound sociopathic. It is deliberately starting a war that will kill millions of people and cause massive destruction and trauma. But there is a method in its madness. Although wars result in suffering and bloodshed, there is a victor and there is purging, and these things pave the way for a new social order, one more than its predecessor, but more demanding of its citizens. A nice touch to the passage is the reference to the new dream of capturing the sun which meshes perfectly with the protagonists cry of "Where's the sun?" in the previous track. The people will treat the protagonist's laments as a challenge.

The fifth and final layer tells of the aftermath of the war and of the protagonist's final role:

"They'll have a better dream to work toward,
and they'll work day and night just to get their reward.
The only way for us to stay alive
is to push it to the limit just the strong survive.
One last thing to make it all come true,
the movement needs a martyr and that person is you.
With all your pain they will sympathize,
and it will boil their blood when they see you die."

When the war is over, everyone will be working harder than ever and a more powerful social order will have been forged, progress will have been made at the expense of millions.

The last half of the passage is blasphemy pure and simple. The parallels to the world's most famous martyr are obvious but in the context of the CD they take on an ominous new meaning. Christians did not gain salvation through Christ, they conquered the world for Christ, and they continue to do so to this day. Christianity is without a doubt the most virulent and aggressive belief system in the world today. It contains the dream of eternal salvation for the faithful, an arsenal of defenses against anything that attempts to contradict, persecute, or destroy it, and the long standing belief that you must conquer the world in order to save it. It is this belief that enables Christians to rationalize any action, no matter how atrocious, in the interests of furthering their belief system. Perhaps the most corrosive part of Christianity is the belief in a perfect afterlife, for it paves the way for people to turn the earth into a living hell. After all, if suffering is a virtue and salvation is earned through self denial there is no reason to try and live a contented life and every reason to deny it to others. Furthermore, pervasive suffering makes people more vulnerable to dreams of salvation. Hell on earth furthers the Christian cause. And it is all done with a smile.

The computer uses the fundamental motivation behind Christianity, the tragic death of a rebellious martyr, to build an even more powerful social order, and with it the computer will achieve god-like power.

The final passage sums up the entire message:

"They are just cogs in the wheel,
and you are the wrench in the works,
and together we will build a stronger machine."

The protagonists worst fears are realized. Before, he thought that he failed in his attempt to change the world. Now he realizes that he succeeded, but in a most horrible way. Instead of freeing people from the nightmare of an enslaving dream, he has has shackled them even tighter to a more powerful dream. He was not a rebel after all, he was only part of the order, a part which destroys the old order to make way for the new. The seeds of destruction must be a part of every social order since it is only through dissension and revolution that a society can evolve and survive. It is this lesson that the computer has learned and as a result has generated a society full of turmoil, pain, struggle, and death in order to save it from stagnation and extinction.

One Last Kiss This is an odd song that I would have liked to have turned out better than it did. The music and other audio additions just didn't seem to convey the feelings that I wanted to put into this song. The first half is done reasonably well, but the second half kind of falls flat. One thing that I realized when recording this song is that it is really hard to produce a blood curdling scream that sounds like a blood curdling scream when it's played back. You can't just scream into the microphone and expect it to sound good. You actually have to practice your scream and try to get it to sound how you want it, unless you are one of those special people who has a nice powerful natural scream. Unfortunately I'm not one of those people. So I tried my best and went with it.

The music starts very simply with a single acoustic sounding guitar part as the protagonist fights to the very end, attacking the dreams that hold his society together. Then, as the drug is injected into his system the music opens up into a beautiful stereophonic guitar part. The protagonists old dreams are reawakened and he is reunited with his lost earthbound goddess. Then the dreaminess of the stereo guitar turns into the harshness of a distorted guitar as the protagonist's dream becomes a nightmare. The drug cannot prevent him from seeing the dream for what it really is, a mask over a lifetime of pain. He screams as the guitar part becomes more intense. In the background the voices of his executioners express shock and disbelief in what they are seeing. They begin to have doubts.

The music fades out for the final passage. The protagonist has realized that everything that the computer told him is about to come true. His horrifying execution has shattered their faith in the dream. It is now obvious to them that their world is no longer perfect and the seeds of dissatisfaction have been planted. As war and pain loom on the horizon, the protagonist utters his final words:

"There is no pleasure, only release from pain."

"There are no happy endings."

And the story is finally over.

Perhaps you feel the uncomfortable feeling that he is right. Does what we do for enjoyment really make us feel good, or does it merely stop us from feeling bad for a little while? We'd like to think that it is the former, but the latter is present in a lot of our pursuits. The stresses are heaped upon us and we grow accustomed to the burden. When it is lifted we feel free and happy, but are we really either? And if the final line is correct, then all of our suffering is for naught, and we have been sold a lie.

And that is the whole story behind "A Dream of Death". I think that no story can compare with reality when it comes to horror.

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 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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