The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 4.6

Oct 1, 2001

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye
and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist
one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you on the right
cheek, turn to him the other also;"
- Jesus, the philosopher George W. Bush identifies with most

Perhaps George should read the bible.

A traumatized populace cries out for revenge. Priests call for a return to righteousness and search their holy books for passages that support their desires. Generals call for war and boast of easy victory. Politicians play follow the leader and pose before the masses. And the great chief brands his nation's attacker as an enemy of God and rouses his people to action by simplifying issues, massaging egos, and making himself out to be the champion of the age. This is Ancient Babylon, this is Joshua's Israel, this is the glory of Rome, this is Napoleon's France, this is Nazi Germany, this is Saddam's Iraq, this is the United States of America. The lyrics change, but the song remains the same. We are right, you are wrong, and we will kill you one by one until you admit it. Hypocrisy, bias, and vested interests are stirred into the mix and the result is a lethal concoction that is spilling over the world. Hatred and violence aren't American inventions, but Americans are far better at them than anyone else as the world will soon see once again.

Speaking of violence, the "On the Origins of Violence" essay series endeavors to explain the recent terrorist attack. Steve Lines Lovecraftian compilation CD "Strange Aeons" is finally out and includes not one, but two versions of "The Dreamhound" as well as a host of Lovecraft inspired tracks. Also, the first taste of "Food for the Gods" is now available at IUMA.com.

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

"Strange Aeons" CD is released featuring "The Dreamhound"

Steve Lines has battled through technical difficulties and the logistical nightmare of assembling a compilation from sources all over the world to produce a unique and very eclectic blend of Lovecraft influenced music. Filled to the rim with tracks, "Strange Aeons" contains the works and voices of Brian Lumley, Ramsey Campbell, and Joseph S. Pulver Sr. among many others with music performed by 14 different bands. Fireaxe is in good company and is proud to be a part of this compilation.

I enjoyed listening to "Strange Aeons". Eclectic seems too limited a word to describe the assortment of tracks because you don't know what to expect next. The songs range from a folk music feel to old fashioned rock-n-roll to powerthrash to spoken word with an atmospheric background. But despite the variety it is all brought together with a similar fascination with the macabre. My favorite track on the CD is "The Black Litany of Nub & Yeb" where Steve and some friends do an excellent job bringing a cultish chant by Joseph S. Pulver Sr. to life. The rhythmic chanting is not only perfect but downright evil, bringing to mind the phrase "Call of Catholicism".

As if 23 tracks of unknown horror wasn't enough, Steve includes a second CD with 26 more tracks of outtakes, demos, and alternate mixes. You get quality and quantity with "Strange Aeons".

Rainfall Records Cloud 004
28 Churchill Close
Calne
Wiltshire
SN11 8EN
U.K.

Steve is asking 12 pounds for the compilation (7 pounds to dealers) which includes postage. The Fireaxe contribution "The Dreamhound" can be found as an mp3 on the internet.

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
1301 Medical Center Dr. #415
Chula Vista, CA, 91911 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.

Rough cut from the Fireaxe studio - "The Wrath of Silence"

Recording on the next Fireaxe CD, "Food for the Gods" is finally underway. After months of planning the project and fine tuning my home studio hardware and software I've strung together enough ones and zeroes to give everyone a taste of what the new Fireaxe is going to sound like. It's only a rough cut, but most of the elements are in place.

The name of this first track is "The Wrath of Silence" and focuses on divine abandonment in ancient Assyria. The track has a strong Persian feel to it with the choice of scale and wailing vocals typical of traditional middle eastern music. Oddly enough the Persian feel meshes well with the heavy Fireaxe style and the result is pretty cool.

The story line of the song involves the Assyrian King Tukulti Ninurta, whose god, Assur, has abandoned him. In agony he tries many things to appease his god and bring his god's blessing back to Assyria, but to no avail. In the end he is betrayed by his son and the nobles who burn him alive in his own temple. The section that I've cut from the full track captures the beginnings of this tragic tale and runs to the part where he inflicts his curse upon the peoples of Babylon by stealing the statue of their god Marduk. This action brings the Babylonians both physically and spiritually to their knees. In those times the statue of a god was more than a symbol, it was the god himself, and removal of the statue severed the link between the follower and divine authority. Followers in that era prayed before the statues of their gods and received answers not unlike people do now, only the answers flowed much easier and the people of that time were greatly dependent on them. Removal of a peoples' god left them feeling helpless, confused, and abandoned. "The Wrath of Silence" captures the anxiety and desperation in the world during a major turning point in history.

One verse that stands out in the song and is worthy of taking a closer look at comes after Tukulti steals the statue of Marduk from Babylon and refuses to give it back even when the Babylonians beg him for it. The verse goes:

"But I did not answer.
I made them suffer like me,
helpless, abandoned,
praying with no answer,
and burning in the wrath of silence."

The line, "I made them suffer like me", echoes one of the main themes in history, that of the propagation of pain. The recent terrorist attack and the aftermath provide an excellent opportunity to observe this theme in action. I invite you to look at each of the players in the world drama who is calling for punishment and apply the idea of the propagation of pain to their actions and the inevitable responses. This vicious cycle is how new layers of trauma are added to the collective human psyche.

You can download and listen to the new track at the Fireaxe IUMA site.

To clarify one thing, I'd decided to kick off the project with a Persian style song long before Sept 11. The song has nothing to do with the terrorist attack in terms of an influence, but given the themes in "Food for the Gods" it has everything to do with it. The purpose of the CD is to put the incident in perspective against the backdrop of human history. Another thing worthy of note is that it is not my intention to paint middle easterners as being the originators of violence and suffering. Assyria, more precisely Sumeria, is the cradle of all civilizations including those of the west. Violence may have begun there, but western democracies have taken it to new heights, especially in the form of "institutionalized violence".

Sept 11, 2001 and the Origins of Violence series

The events of Sept 11, 2001 have given me a great example to demonstrate the principles of the theory that I have been expounding upon in the "Origins of Violence" essay. By now most of you have heard the explanations of why it happened from various sources. Most of the religious and political ones are simplistic and absurd, but a few intellectuals with cooler heads have been able to probe the depths of the terrorist attack and find more plausible and rational explanations. As usual in times of crisis, the cooler heads are not prevailing and the escalation continues. Rationality cannot stand in the way of human social evolution.

This is how the "Origins of Violence" applies to the events of Sept 11,2001. The quoted text comes from the "Origins of Violence" series contained in "The Burning Blade" issues 4.1 through 4.5.

Q. Why did the terrorists use such an extreme act of violence instead of publicly airing their grievances?

A. They have aired their grievances, but it had no effect. U.S. foreign policy toward Islamic nations has grown more belligerent over time despite protests both peaceful and violent. Escalation became necessary since all other options were exhausted:

From pt.1 "All manner of bribery, coercion, reasoning, and stimulation can be used to manipulate people, but if all else fails, killing them will quell their dissension."

and "Violence is effective. It is the last resort because no further response is necessary. And when dealing with people who will never give in, violence often becomes a necessity."

The terrorists had been escalating the level of violence in their attacks for many years to no avail. The only surprise about the Sept 11,2001 incident was its magnitude. The terrorists objective is to force the U.S. into changing its foreign policy. Both sides are extremely stubborn and thus the escalation on both sides.

Q. Why can neither side give in?

A. From pt.1 "the reigns of social control tend to go to the people who are very unwilling to give in. They are viewed as having strength, character, and vision, and they are hard to bargain down or make a deal with."

Simply put, you don't become a leader if you concede easily, and you don't stay that way if you start giving in.

Q. How can such a small group of radicals be such a big threat?

A. From pt.2 "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."

and "The most extreme expression of the unwillingness to give in is the willingness to die for an ideology."

The willingness to die gives a small group more potential to cause great damage. This potential is even greater in our highly technological age as we all saw on Sept 11.

Q. Why would someone die for an ideology?

A. The ideology of the believers has exploited their psychological weaknesses. First their fear of death is magnified:

From pt.3 "Somewhere within a personís 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 personís critical thinking ability has all but gone away and they become much more willing to embrace any solution that can remove the pain."

Then their willingness to submit to "divine" authority is recruited to make the fear of death go away:

From pt.3 "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"

If the convert is sufficiently conditioned, their belief in heaven, paradise, reincarnation, etc., can overcome their fear of death. They are willing to die for an ideological cause. If you read the final instructions given to the hijackers you will see that the idea that their actions will please god and result in blessing and paradise is mentioned over and over again. Religion is a powerful form of psychological leverage.

Q. What is the "sufficient conditioning" that gets them to that point?

A. From pt.4 "Divine abandonment is perhaps one of the worst things that a human being can feel. Itís source is in one of the deepest and most primitive parts of the brain. When a person can 'feel a divine presence', all is well, but when they cannot the anxiety is almost limitless."

and "overwhelming feelings of helplessness can easily drive people to extremes to restore security and order. This is the key. People are very vulnerable to those who can make them feel divine abandonment and are very motivated by those who can promise a return to security and comfort."

and "Because the feelings of divine abandonment are such a powerful source of motivation, creating a permanent deficit of a divine presence in the mind is a way to make a person highly motivated and active their entire life. A permanent deficit can never be satisfied for long. No matter how great a feeling of divine presence a person feels when they accomplish a goal, receive someoneís love, or in some way alleviate the pain, once their neurochemistry goes back to itís normal state, the feelings of divine abandonment return."

For someone in the war torn areas of the middle east it is easy to find a source for feeling of divine abandonment. Promises of peace followed by betrayal and death of loved ones are common and cause feelings of anxiety and pain. The injustice of the events make it seem as though god has turned his back. When similar events recur over and over they reopen the old wounds and make them cut deeper, eventually becoming a permanent source of suffering. When their suffering becomes great enough, a person often becomes very religious in order to frequently evoke the feelings of a divine presence (through ritual and prayer) to ease the pain. If the suffering becomes too great, death in the name of god becomes a favorable option since it is both an escape from the pain and the highest form of sacrifice (and thus the one most highly rewarded) that one can make to one's god.

Q. That's too bad for them, but we aren't like that are we?

A. Suicide warriors have been around for a while in Japanese culture and in the Palestinian's struggle, but the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon were something new in the world. In the common cases of murder/suicides, like when someone straps on a bomb and blows themselves up in a crowd or when a person snaps and shoots his family and co-workers, their emotions play an important role in pushing them over the top. But for the Sept 11 terrorists, their suicide was planned far in advance, with plenty of time for their emotions to wear off and for rational thought to change their minds. All the time they were learning to fly planes they knew they were going to fly them full of passengers and fuel into buildings and die in a truly horrifying fireball. They could have easily deserted the cause and become wealthy airline pilots, but such was the strength of their resolve (through conditioning) that they carried out their missions. They knew that only one thing could ease their suffering, an extreme form of self sacrifice. That type of commitment to a spectacular murder/suicide is something the world has only seen once before:

Columbine

Just as the World Trade center attack stands apart from other suicide bombings, Columbine stands apart from other school shootings. Like the terrorists, Klebold and Harris planned their suicides far in advance with plenty of time for emotions to wear off and for rational thought to change their minds. Instead they planted bombs all over their school, chained many of the doors shut, and executed their plan on a set date. Had everything gone off as planned, the death toll would have been much higher, but many of their bombs did not explode and thus the number of dead and wounded didn't make the attack stand out as far from other school shootings as the World Trade Center attack stood out among other acts of terror. However, Columbine was the result of a truly a new advance in the evolution of human psychology. Whereas most murder/suicides fit this pattern:

From pt.5 "It is this latter example that is becoming more and more common in modern society: the slightly obsessed and eccentric but otherwise well mannered individual who one day snaps and goes on a murderous rampage."

Klebold and Harris were able to control their emotions despite being in a state of suffering so severe that only death could relieve it. But it couldn't be just a normal death, it had to be a spectacular one, since only a spectacular death, shocking to behold and full of retribution would ease the pain they were feeling. This is the reason why they laughed and made jokes as they walked through the halls shooting fellow students. It wasn't that they enjoyed killing, it was that the full weight of their suffering was finally being lifted from their shoulders and they experienced a joy they had not felt for a very long time.

Q. But Klebold and Harris lived relatively normal privileged lives. They didn't grow up in a war zone. Where did all this pain come from?

A. The socialization process in modern cultures involves the sensitization of the individual to an extreme degree. This is critical for motivation:

From pt.4 "When a smile or a frown, a good grade or a bad one, a positive comment or a negative one, or the gain or loss of currency carries with it the power to drive a person to drastically alter their behavior, motivating them to overcome all obstacles in the pursuit of a goal is attainable."

Sensitization, which is done by one's parents, other authority figures, peers, and the media, is intended to make small issues into large ones. If you want your society to produce the next Isaac Newton, Thomas Edison, or Lance Armstrong you need to instill in the children a powerful drive that enables them to make great sacrifices to overcome all obstacles. Small victories have to carry with them enough meaning to overcome the pain that must be endured to achieve them. Sensitization makes the small victories seem huge, but it also works in reverse. Small failures can seem huge as well, bringing with them great psychological stress. This stress is motivational, but if victories of the degree that can counter the failures are unattainable, even a small failure can turn into a permanent source of suffering.

People who are suffering sometimes lash out in socially unacceptable ways and are punished for it. The intent is to redirect that emotional energy toward achieving positive social goals. However, if those goals are unattainable or if achieving them does not satisfy the person, the painful emotions are only made worse by the punishment. Most people reach their breaking point and either surrender their distant goals and settle for less, explode and go on a rampage, or silently commit suicide. But Klebold and Harris were strong enough to reach a far greater breaking point. Their modern upbringing, anger management classes, and modern pharmaceuticals (Harris was on anti-psychotic drugs) enabled them to contain emotions that were strong enough to make them feel that a spectacular suicide was their only escape. It is while containing those emotions while seething underneath that they conceived their plan for the most spectacular murder/suicide in the history of public schooling.

One might think that the "mistake" made in socializing Klebold and Harris was in making them feel such strong emotions. This is incorrect:

From pt.4 "And it is this type of highly motivated behavior that is held as the product of successful parenting and education, not the psychological well being of the individual nor the associated well being of others and the world in which they live."

Klebold and Harris were extremely motivated. This motivation through stoking the fires of their emotions is an intentional part of the socialization process. The "mistake" was in allowing them the opportunity to commit their explosive suicide. Our society has corrected this mistake and it is now much harder for people suffering like Klebold and Harris to alleviate their pain. The vast majority of those tortured souls will simply live with their suffering and relieve it when they can, but for a few the suffering will reach even greater levels and we will all witness the spectacular ways that they will quench it.

From pt.5 "As social orders grow stronger, the acts of violence and rebellion grow more extreme. The atrocities of the past are pale in comparison to those that will come in the future."

Given the examples of Klebold and Harris, it is not necessary for the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon to have grown up in a war zone. It is likely that they were raised in a modern middle classed family, one that knew the value of sensitizing their children and teaching them to control their emotions, and thus were both motivated enough and in control of themselves enough to follow through on the most spectacular suicides the world has yet seen. Primitive societies don't produce such people.

Note that the response to the terrorist attack is the same as the response to Columbine, punishment and prevention. This forces another layer of emotional control to be added to anyone who desires to act out in a similar manner. Most will be discouraged, but not all.

Q. What does the future hold?

A. Escalation.

From pt.5 "Each rebellion or war, successful or not, becomes a lesson for all to learn about how not to be. The failed ideologies of the past must be destroyed and forgotten and the youth must be taught to never behave in those ways. Each time an ideology falls a new layer is added to the ideological teachings passed down to the next generation. Another list of doníts is forced upon the world. Motivational forces via the permanent psychological deficit must be increased to enable people to find new directions through the vast array of unacceptable behaviors enforced by the social order. To use the previous analogy, the psychological pressure cooker that is the human psyche is made stronger and tighter and the heat (stress) is turned up higher. Explosions become more spectacular, but social orders need these explosions to evolve. The propensity for spectacular violence is a survival advantage for the society. Violence is very much a necessary part of modern society."

Welcome to the 21st century.

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

The next edition of "The Burning Blade" will contain the final installment of the "Origins of Violence" series. It promises to be a climactic finish.

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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