The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 4.3

March 31, 2001

"When you thought you were free,
you didn't need a reason, a reason to survive.
As the big door closes
and you're waiting for the nail
somebody tell the world you're buried alive."
- Black Sabbath, "Buried Alive"

As our capricious god of capitalism, an emergent system known by the term "The Economy", punishes us for our excesses, we turn to our high priest Greenspan and lord Bush to implore them to save us from its wrath or to blame them for our misfortune. But to trust them or curse them matters little, for they have little to no control over that which they purport to influence. Yet we believe that they do, and that is all that they need to exercise power over us and get us to do what they want us to do.

The days of prosperity and indulgence are over. It's important to spread that news to the majority of Americans who never got their share of the pie. All the time they spent working hard and waiting to reach the light at the end of the tunnel may now be all for naught. But there's no time to dwell on that. It's time to tighten our belts. The layoffs must happen. It's important for The Economy you know. We must all sacrifice for the good of The Economy.

And some more than others.

Changes are afoot for Fireaxe. Fireaxe headquarters are on the move, and the first new Fireaxe song in over year "The Dreamhound" is soon to be completed. Some things remain the same. Fireaxe continues to sell it's CDs for no more than the price of production. Fireaxe makes no efforts to worship any god, "The Economy" included.

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

Fireaxe recording studio to move to Chula Vista

The city of Lake Forest will no longer be the home of Fireaxe as of April 20, 2001. The reason for this is that the city would not agree to pay for a new multi-million dollar recording studio for the purposes of recording "Food for the Gods" despite my claims for how much it would help out the local economy. So I shopped around Southern California for a new venue and the city of Chula Vista (which is just south of San Diego) agreed to be the new home for Fireaxe. They're currently building Fireaxe a state-of-the-art digital studio with parking facilities, luxury boxes, and easy access to the freeways all at taxpayer expense. It won't pay off of course, unless you're me or the city officials. Isn't capitalism wonderful?

It seems that I'm starting in with the April Fools issue a little soon.

Seriously, the move is the result of a better job opportunity for my fiancÚ. That's the euphemism I use to describe the situation involving her untimely departure from the practice where she worked. In a nutshell her workplace was bought out by a soon to be married couple who were busy trying to live the American dream of owning their own business, buying a new home, and living where it never gets cold. They're a very nice couple and things went great the first few months. They poured some new capital into the franchise and made the practice look shiny and new. Things were great.

The trouble was that they overspent by quite a large margin and didn't fully realize the debt burden that they were accumulating. This is the American reality of the last five years. After a few months they looked at the books at discovered that they couldn't pay for all that they'd bought. So it was time to cut expenses at that meant getting rid of my fiancÚ despite the fact that she's more productive than either of the owners. Does this sound familiar to anyone? Of course it does. By now it's pretty much a broken record. So off we go to the land of school shootings. Isn't capitalism wonderful?

It's not quite as bad as it may seem. The new practice where my fiancÚ is moving to is really a much better opportunity than the one she is leaving ever was. So for now the fan has dodged another turd.

In a month's time I'll pass along my new address and phone number. Until then the old address will still work. Fireaxe e-mail and URLs will remain the same.

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 Dreamhound" nearly ready for release

A Fireaxe listener in England named Steve Lines is producing a compilation CD, titled "Strange Aeons", of various Lovecraftian songs and poetry put to music. He was impressed with "Lovecraftian Nightmares" and asked me if I'd like to turn a poem of his into a song for the compilation and sent along three samples of his work. Two were so-so but one was good enough to inspire some music and so I agreed to do the song.

The name of the poem is "The Dreamhound" and if the song it inspired sounds anything like "Hounds of Tindalos" it shouldn't be a big surprise seeing as how the two works have similar themes. Both songs have a thrashing, driving sound attempting to capture the feel of hungry carnivorous beasts. In all honesty I like "Hounds of Tindalos" better, it having more brutal and biting lyrics and a more fatalistic ending. Still, "The Dreamhound" has enough of a hard thrashing quality to earn it's keep as a Fireaxe song.

Steve is currently evaluating the unmastered version of the song. He may put it directly into the compilation since he is pressed for time. I had to hurry in the recording process as well as climb the learning curve for my digital studio and so it isn't quite as good as I'd like. In any event, once the final version is settled on I'll post an mp3 for all to hear. I'll also put up information of how to order your own copy of "Strange Aeons".

On the Origins of Violence, part 3

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 third 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 the second part I discussed how ideologies based around non-falsifiable beliefs can possess the mind of the believer and make them willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the ideology.

In this installment I will discuss how ideologies propagate by creating and exploiting psychological weaknesses.

Exploiting psychological weaknesses is the hallmark of ideological beliefs and conversion. Modern day humans are vulnerable to a great number of attacks both emotional and logical which modern day ideologies seek to exploit. The most obvious of these is the fear of death which I consider to be one of two major psychological weakness.

The fear of death is a uniquely human weakness being that we are the only species that can see into the future far enough to know that we are going to die and that there's not a single thing that we can do about it. This fear often taps into the survival instinct present in most higher animals which is aroused when danger is sensed, but it also, and more importantly, taps into the notion of the dissolution of the self, the self being another uniquely human characteristic, which is aroused when something which holds great significance to a person is lost or threatened. Both parts of the fear of death can be exploited by ideologies. The simplest method is to exploit the survival instinct by pointing a gun at someone or threatening them with death in some other way to gain their obedience. However, there is a limit to how much you can force some to do with this method since it is difficult to make someone sacrifice their life under the threat of death, and some people will choose immediate death as opposed to a life of suffering with no possibility of relief. These problems can be solved by attacking the other facet of the fear of death, the dissolution of the self. The solution is not to threaten someone with a premature demise, but to convince them that the dissolution of the self does not have to happen. The drawback to this approach is that it's harder to convince someone that they will live forever if they do what you say than to convince someone that you will shoot them, but one big advantage is that you can talk endlessly about death, damnation and salvation without being personally threatening. In this way you can remain on friendly terms with the person you are trying to convince. After all, you aren't going to kill them, that will happen anyway, you are merely trying to save their ego identity from the same fate. This helps in the propagation of the belief system since it can be spread among friends, family, and acquaintances with a reduced chance of alienating them. Leaders using this method are seen as beneficent rulers as opposed to tyrannical despots. When using the "benevolent" method of evoking the fear of death, people are still controlled by their fears, but their fears are redirected to things other than the rulers and authorities. This makes such a ruling system more robust since the people cannot get rid of their fears by simply killing their tyrannical leader.

The dissolution of the self can be a horrifying prospect. This is due to the way people are brought up dependent on their self image. A person's self image is the sum total of everything that they are and have done. It's a person's occupation, accomplishments, appearance, associations, abilities, beliefs, skills, and everything else. A person's self image is a powerful determinant of how others will treat them. A good self image generally means compliments, opportunities, and successes. A bad self image generally means ridicule, abandonment, and failure. It's clear how improvements in self image become strongly associated with all things good and how a reduction in self image becomes strongly associated with all things bad. Death, the complete annihilation of the self, is the end of the good and the beginning of an eternity of bad. Reductions in the self image are like a taste of death, and often bring on the anxiety, paralysis, and nervous activity typical of exposure to the primal fear. Most people will do anything to avoid those painful psychological states.

It is the elicitation of those very states that is the cornerstone of religious conversion. Somewhere within a person's vast sense of self lie a great many weaknesses that can be exploited. By focusing on these weaknesses the fear of death can be evoked and magnified to the point where it can overwhelm the potential convert. In this state a person's critical thinking ability has all but gone away and they become much more willing to embrace any solution that can remove the pain. This is where the ideology exploits the other major psychological weakness.

The willingness to submit to a figure of supreme authority is a major psychological weakness found in most humans. It stems from parental associations made during a person's early childhood. In those years a person's parents are truly godlike and obedience to their authority is often rewarded with love, attention, rewards, and other forms of gratification. A person's parents seem able to solve any problem, make any pain go away, and shine light on what seems to be impenetrable darkness. In later childhood the image of the parent's as omnipotent beings slowly fades as the world is better understood, but the connections forged in those early years are still present in the brain, they merely lie dormant, disconnected from the parents that no longer live up to them.

These dormant associations, which connect feelings of love, rewards, and delivery from pain to omnipotent figures are the target of religious conversion. The goal of the conversion is to replace the omnipotent image vacated by the parent with the omnipotent image of the religion's god. If successful this rewiring of the person's brain allows things associated with the religion, such as a religious authority figure or holy book, to influence the person as powerfully as their parents did when they were infants. Although the god image is a figment of someone's imagination, the effects that it can have on someone's mind are very real and can be very powerful. Simply obeying what is written in a holy book or following the directions of a church leader can trigger feelings of "divine" love and acceptance. These feelings awaken the dormant connections associated with childhood impressions of omnipotent godlike parents. When triggered, these feelings seem as if they were coming directly from a god and reinforce the idea that the god is real in spite of its non-falsifiable nature. It is in this way that a belief system can slowly burrow it's way into the mind of the believer. The non-falsifiable nature of the ideology creates a one-way gate for psychological reinforcement. Anything that supports the existence of the god, such as the often powerful feelings of "divine" love, is embraced as being true. Anything that opposes it is explained away. As with any form of conditioning, enough positive reinforcement establishes the connection in the brain, sometimes permanently depending on the power and frequency of the reinforcement, and without negative reinforcement to offset it, the belief in the ideology can be very difficult to remove.

It is worthy of note to mention the phenomenon of the fanatic, a person that is obsessed with an ideology. These types of people resemble drug addicts in their religious devotions and this is indeed an accurate assessment. The brain is a neuro- chemical organ that contains several chemicals capable of giving someone a drug-like high. By stimulating certain areas of the brain these chemicals can be released causing a feeling of anywhere from mild pleasure to divine rapture. Fanatics are generally people who have discovered how to generate this stimulation and who do it on a regular basis. The neural pathways they use to get their high are the ones associated with divine love and acceptance. Similar to other addicts, they crave the feeling of divine love and seek to please their god in any way that they can. Many of them even go through withdrawal periods between highs where the dark side of their belief system comes on in full force. For these people their fanaticism often leads to deep psychological problems.

Simply exploiting weaknesses is not enough for ideologies to survive and propagate. It greatly increases their chances for survival if they can also create and exacerbate psychological weaknesses in the members of it's community.

The weakness created by fear of the dissolution of the self is exacerbated by the process of building up the ego. Building up someone's ego, or self image, is done by associating a person with their actions, appearance, occupation, accomplishments, etc., and the things they are said to own. In this way a person's self image extends far beyond their body, and more importantly, beyond their direct control. This has a dual effect of making someone more powerful and at the same time more vulnerable, and the more a person's ego is built up, the more vulnerable they become. Someone who has a lot of possessions receives a lot of gratification from them, but becomes more vulnerable to theft, taxation, and others trying to take what they own in other ways. Someone who has a popular public image can receive praise and attention from a great number of people but also receives criticisms and attacks from an equally great number. Someone who has put a lot of their life into building a successful career or marriage has a lot to lose when change threatens their position. The more someone has identified with their ego, the more they stand to lose, and the more others will seek to take away what they have. Since losing self image is like a taste of death, especially when the things a person stands to lose have given them a great deal of satisfaction, they have no choice but to defend themselves. And the remedy for any loss is to regain what was lost or make gains in other areas. Improving one's self image is always seen as a good thing, and the greater the improvement the better. In this way, death seems to be pushed away and life is embraced.

The threat of loss of self image is a powerful motivational tool. Leaders of all ideologies make use of it to make their members more productive and willing to make sacrifices. Threats to more important areas of a person's self image are made safe again with sacrifices in less important areas, and threats to the most important facet of a person's self image must be stopped at all costs. This is where the non-falsifiable beliefs of an ideology play a very important role. Ideologies can wield complete power over someone if they can convince them that the most important facet of their self image is something that is in the control of the ideological system. The most obvious example of this is the concept of the soul. The soul is a myth. It can neither be proven nor falsified. Yet many religions have convinced their followers that it is their most important possession. Nothing that a person does, owns, or is, measures up to the fate of the soul, and that fate is determined exclusively by religious texts as interpreted by religious authorities. This gives them tremendous power over their members. It takes little more than a hellfire and damnation sermon to motivate a Christian congregation into action. A threat is made to the soul, and the people rise to defend their most prized possession, to the death if necessary. This is the pinnacle of exploitation, giving a person an eternal promise in exchange for eternal obedience.

All ideologies wield a similar power. America prides itself with it's devotion to the concept of freedom. Freedom too is only a promise, a word intended to mean all things to all people while making no guarantees. In essence it is a promise to all it's believers that they are free to build up their own egos as far as they can, while downplaying the very real limits imposed by a truly gargantuan system of laws and a privilege based economic system. Practical limitations are ignored and people are encouraged to associate freedom with their wildest dreams. This allows the government to motivate it's citizens by declaring something to be a threat to their freedom. The word is seen by each person as being their access to their most passionately held dream, something that they have already sacrificed much toward attaining, and they respond by giving up less valuable things. If freedom isn't enough motivation, the government can always evoke the threat to the economy, which is essentially the fickle god of capitalism, which attacks a great number of things important to peoples' self images.

The willingness to submit to a figure of authority is the other major psychological weakness and it is exacerbated through various child rearing tactics. The willingness to submit to authority stems from the need to feel love and acceptance and to be delivered from hardships, things that a child grows dependent on from their parents. This dependency can be increased with two essentially similar but outwardly different methods. The first is to spoil the child by giving them everything (and often more) that they want or need any time that they want it. There is a limit to how much a parent can provide for a spoiled child and eventually the child has to deal with the realities that everything desired cannot be obtained. The second is to abuse or neglect the child. Love and acceptance is given sporadically, by only one parent, or in the form of abuse. In a life of emptiness or volatility, a child's need for love and acceptance is magnified. In both cases, the child goes through a process where they experience great degrees of love and great degrees of it's absence. Often children are subject to more than one method. They are spoiled at times, abused at times, neglected at times, etc. Whatever the combination, the result is a feast or famine type of conditioning which tends to make the child prone to obsessive, compulsive, and addictive behaviors toward the needs for love and acceptance. These children are not satisfied with a normal level of positive reinforcement and instead seek out extreme levels of what they crave. This extreme need makes them vulnerable to anyone who can offer them what they need. Additionally, they carry on this obsessive need for the rest of their lives. Ideologies can victimize these people quite easily since they promise extremes in many things such as eternal salvation, divine love, a personal relationship with a deity, and heaven on earth. These people become addicted to ego expansion. Enough is never enough. A new peak is always sought.

This inevitably leads to conflict. There is nothing that can fulfill the self images of all who want more, especially when competitiveness is considered. The desire to have more than everyone else creates an endless cycle of fighting for supremacy. The most extreme efforts are rewarded with success and elation and thus propagate, solidifying them as answers to all image problems. The trouble is that the building up of one's image necessarily results in the diminishing of other's images, most often in the absolute sense, but at least in the relative sense. With physical objects this is obvious, but it applies to everything, even those things which appear to be private gains. All gains raise the standards for everyone else who must work harder to attain their rewards, avoid punishments, and maintain their level of self image. These new standards ripple through society and get passed down to future generations. This creates a social structure where everyone is trying to both protect what they have while taking away from someone else. There is no time to rest, you must defend and you must attack. Even in times of surplus, where everyone stands to make gains there is a struggle to get a greater share of the excess. In lean times, when everyone is losing, the fighting reaches a fevered pitch.

At first it seems like these "problems" are easy to fix. All we need to do is simply raise our children properly and to keep our egos in check. The trouble is that people who are satisfied with what they have are far less motivated than those who crave more. The ones who are always hungry for more despite having far more than their share are the ones who struggle hardest for and win the reigns of power. They are our leaders, our heroes, our trusted authorities, our idols, our role models, and often become very important parts of our own self images. We support them, we idolize them, and we strive to be like them for we dream of having what they have. In many situations we are them.

It's easy to look at the most extreme examples of people whose desires have become obsessions and blame them for the world's problems while seeing oneself as normal, stable, and free from out-of-control desires, but this perspective relies on a relative definition of normal. When compared to more primitive people, modern people are all obsessive, neurotic, and emotionally unstable. Compared to child rearing in primitive cultures, we are all abused, neglected, and spoiled to a great degree. If the most extreme examples of compulsive competitors were removed from our society it would not change the dynamics of the culture. The ferocity of the competition would diminish slightly, but only temporarily. The historical trend is one of increasing competition and of expansion of that competition into all facets of our society.

And it is also important to note that our leaders are not in control despite the fact that they hold the reigns of power. They too are obedient followers of ideologies that control their self images, ideologies that oppose each other and that have evolved to be predatory. Ideologies lead armies of psychologically exploited people into conflict in an effort to survive and propagate. They survive by exploiting us and exacerbating our psychological weaknesses. The lucky few of us "win" while the rest lose, but we are all 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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