The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 4.2

February 2, 2001

"The devil and the priest can't exist if one goes away.
It's just like the battle of the sun and the moon and night and day.
The force of the devil that's what we're all told to fear.
Watch out for religion when he gets to near, too near"
- Black Sabbath, "Disturbing the Priest"

Has everyone been praying for God to heal the wounds that have divided the United States?

Perhaps the one thing worse than the brazen presentation of one's own religious beliefs is the wearing of a false mask of piety in order to further one's own political ends. Not that president Bush is that cunning or devious, but the ones who engineered his election certainly are. Castro had it right when he said about Bush, "hopefully he is not as stupid as he seems, nor as Mafia-like as his background makes him appear.". Many Americans share the same sentiment.

But Bush is right about one thing, the ideological battles of the last eight years are a thing of the past. Of course, his actions state that now it's time for the new wars to begin.

Slayer and Pro Wrestling were acquitted in trials involving murders. The first amendment seems to be holding in regard to violence depicted in the media, but one wonders how a new wave of conservatism will affect people's tolerance for things not in line with "family values".

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

"Food for the Gods" will be digital

After a fair amount of testing, researching, discussing and plain old foot dragging I've come to the conclusion that a digital home studio is the best way to produce high quality sound for the next Fireaxe CD. This wasn't the case when I started recording "Lovecraftian Nightmares". At that point going digital would have been a nightmare in itself. The software was not robust, the effects sounded cheesy or noisy, and the cost of a system was far above an equivalent analog machine. The muddiness caused by the deficiencies of my multi-track player was preferable compared to audio artifacts that come from substandard digital techniques.

Two years have changed things for the better. The sound of digital equipment and processing is much improved, the software is more robust, and the price of the system is about half of what it used to be. I've only been at the controls of my digital studio for a few days but I already know that it will do what I need it to do, and that is produce a Fireaxe CD that screams.

The best part about having a complete studio at home is that I will be able to release samples from the CD long before it is complete. I'll post some mp3s on a regular basis and pass on the locations and names in future editions of the Blade.

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.

On the Origins of Violence, part 2

To help clarify a few things about the upcoming CD "Food for the Gods", I'd like to run a series of columns about my views on violence. This is the second installment.

In the first part I discussed how an unwillingness to give in is both an important survival characteristic as well as a cause of violence and conflict. In this part I will discuss how ideologies are the foundation of the unwillingness to give in and thus pave the way for violence.

The most extreme expression of the unwillingness to give in is the willingness to die for an ideology. If a person cannot be reasoned with, coerced, bribed, or swayed by any method, the conflict that they have with their opposition can only be ended through extreme means. Death, imprisonment, or banishment are what must be forced on someone who is willing to fight to the death for their cause. Although it appears on the surface that being willing to die for a cause is simply asking to be killed, it takes on a new dimension in a group context. The unwillingness to give in helps groups of uniform purpose to not only survive conflicts with their ideology intact, but to achieve victory. Killing, or imprisoning a large number of people is a very costly proposition with that cost often being in human lives. If the cost of eliminating a group of people who are willing to fight until death is greater than the cost of a concession to pacify them, the concession will often be made. Thus, the willingness to die for an ideology is a powerful bargaining chip. The threat of violence becomes the foundation of the relationship between the opposing sides.

Furthermore, the willingness of a group of people to go to more extreme methods, to suffer more pain, or to endure more deaths can often make up for numerical or technological disadvantages. The threat of pain or death often causes cowardice on the battlefield, enabling a smaller army to intimidate a larger one into submission. The principle of willing to go to extremes extends to any conflict. In sports the ones who train the hardest win more often, in intelligence tests those who study harder will often score higher than others. Working hard, enduring pain, and making sacrifices are the keys to victory in any sort of competition.

Some of these sacrifices can be justified by the concept of delayed gratification. Pain in the present is worth pleasure in the future when the pleasure outweighs the pain. But many sacrifices that people make have either a negligible reward or no reward at all, and when it comes to death, there is no physical reward that can offset the cost. However, if a person can be convinced that any sacrifice that they make for the group will be returned with interest with death being no obstacle to the reward, they can often find the motivation to go to the greatest extreme if necessary. This is the role of the ideology, to make individuals willing to sacrifice everything for the benefit and empowerment of the whole.

Religions provide the most obvious examples of ideologies that promise rewards after death. An eternity in heaven, reincarnation as a more desirable life form, good karma, etc., are promised to those who obey religious doctrine. Millions of people have sacrificed their lives believing that some part of them would live on after death and that their sacrifices would be divinely rewarded. Of course, there is no proof of life after death, of any gods, of divine rewards, or of any spiritual side of life. In fact, most religions seem like the writings of someone with an overactive imagination and an inferiority complex. Yet people continue to hold religious beliefs, and often hold them with more determination than other more reasonable ideas.

The most immediate question that I should seem to have to answer before dismissing all religious beliefs as absurd is whether or not I can prove that every single religious belief is false. The fact is that I cannot. I cannot prove that any religious belief is false, and that is precisely the reason why none of them should be believed.

At the root of the problem is the issue of falsifiability. Falsifiability refers to any theory that can be proved false by some piece of evidence. Newton's second law is an example. If you measure the force on an object, its mass, and its acceleration, Newton's second law says that the force will equal the product of the mass and acceleration. If your measurements don't show that relationship, Newton's second law is falsified.

Compare this with any religious belief (and I define a religious belief as being anything not falsifiable), for example the belief of a survivor in a plane crash that a god was personally responsible for saving their life. What can falsify this belief? Do the deaths of others in the plane crash mean that god does not exist, didn't care about them, or simply wasn't involved at all? No, as a believer might say, it was simply their time to die. What if the survivor was in another plane crash and died. Does that falsify the belief? Again no, says the believer, God works in mysterious ways. For any question someone might raise about a religious belief, or any piece of evidence that seems to contradict it an explanation can always be made for why the belief is not disproved. Each explanation, if questioned, can be supported by more explanations, and so on and so forth. There is simply no end to them. I'm sure that many of you have gone through this endless process of questioning beliefs and receiving explanations until complete frustration has set in. In time you might come to the conclusion that if you cannot prove a belief false, it must therefore be true, and that is a great mistake.

The fact of the matter is that any belief can be supported in this way no matter how absurd it may be. Every question or contradiction can be turned away with another explanation. Of course, the more reasonable the explanation sounds, the more convincing it is. Explanations often use authoritative statements, appeals to the emotions, and extensive analogies, but can also use logic, scientific facts, and commonly held truths to support the belief, but no matter how well formed the support for the belief is, if it is not falsifiable, it is inconsequential. An infinite number of beliefs, all contradictory and all non-falsifiable, can be imagined that are supported by exactly the same evidence and can be defended with as many well formed arguments as any other religious belief. None of them can be proved wrong, and they all contradict each other, so only one can be right, but with no evidence that supports one belief over any other, the chances of choosing the exact right one are one over infinity. Not even Pascal would touch that wager. To go one step further, neither the odds nor the outcomes change based on what you think, believe, or do. Doing what you believe to be the "right" thing to gain a more favorable afterlife may in reality be the exact wrong thing. There's simply no way to tell. The only logical conclusion is to disregard all beliefs and not let them influence your behavior in any way.

But the vast majority of people embrace a belief system. And although the fact that what they believe is not falsifiable makes their belief illogical, it is the non-falsifiable nature of the belief that enables it to burrow into their minds. Real gods, such as churches, idols, leaders, heroes, icons, armies, etc. can be vanquished. Their omnipotence can be falsified. Churches can be torn apart by dissension or led astray by insane priests, idols can be smashed to pieces, leaders can be killed, heroes can turn into goats, armies can be defeated, and anything real can be conquered or destroyed. But a non-falsifiable belief can withstand any assault. There is always another explanation that makes doubt go away. There is always a solution to any dilemma that returns hope to a darkened world. There is always a way to put words together that renews the dream and lifts the spirit. Our ancestors learned this the hard way. God had to be a figment of their imagination or a conquering army would tear off their god's head and leave it on a spear for all to see. Imaginary gods can hide inside the minds of their believers and not even enslavement can purge them from the mind of someone who truly believes. The believer can keep repeating the non-falsifiable tenets of their belief system, preventing all attempts at changing or removing their ideology. Gods that take that firm of a hold inside someone's mind can only be destroyed by total annihilation: everyone who believes must be killed and all traces of that god must be swept from the face of the earth. That can be done, and has in the past, but it is a very costly proposition. A non-falsifiable ideology enables a group of people to achieve their maximum ability to survive and thrive.

Belief systems also provide the believer with a variety of psychological benefits, such as security, a sense of purpose, and a feeling of oneness with a larger whole. But they also inflict psychological damage upon the believer, making them dependent on the belief system to provide those needs. There are many ways that belief systems have evolved to take hold of a believer's mind. These will be discussed in the next Burning Blade.

Religions are not the only examples of ideologies. Modern forms of government are also based on non-falsifiable belief systems. Socialism, communist, and democracy are based on intangible concepts such as equality, free will, unalienable rights, and idealistic visions of what it means to be human. These concepts are infused into the minds of citizens providing them with a sense of self while at the same time making them dependent on the system to maintain it. The citizens of a country will make great sacrifices to support and defend it just as believers do for their religion. The only differences between church and state are semantic.

There is a major problem with ideologies that lead people to make great sacrifices, and that is that the thing that benefits the most from the sacrifice is not the individual or the group, but the ideology itself. Ideologies exploit the workings of the human mind and thus do not necessarily have the benefits of the group as their first priority. Ideologies that lead people to work hard, sacrifice, die for their beliefs and push themselves to the limit will outlast or conquer ideologies that do not. Ideologies follow the same laws of survival of the fittest as everything else in nature, and thus it benefits an ideology to be predatory. Most ideologies rationalize violence and killing in the name of their central, and non-falsifiable, beliefs, and successful ideologies lead their members to provoke conflicts. This provocation can be in the form of a direct assault, a gradual imposition of military, economic, or political power, spreading the word via missionaries, media, or other forms of propaganda, or secret communication between individuals in a country dominated by a rival ideology. War, violence, and conflict on many levels are often the result of these provocations, giving the believers of one ideology the justification to eliminate the believers of the other. The fact that ideologies live so deeply in the minds of the believers makes extreme measures to get rid of them necessary. The first priority of an ideology is to survive in a hostile climate, the deaths and suffering of believers on both sides is only a means to that end. Make no mistake about it, we are food for the gods.

I invite all comments. If there is a desire for this to become an open discussion, I'll send out responses and replies to all on the Fireaxe mailing list. Names and e-mail addresses will be withheld upon request.

More to come.

The Future

Over the years, 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.

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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