The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 5.4

May 31, 2002

"Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."
- George W. Bush invoking the next incarnation of the Inquisition

Mention of the Inquisition conjures images of torture, heretics being burned at the stake, and religious authorities wielding the power over life and death. It also conjures images of Monty Python and Mel Brooks among other humorous takes. But the common perception is that the dark period of history known as the inquisition is something that is all far behind us, or at least far removed from the Western world. However, what no one expects is that though the practices and the practitioners may have changed, the intentions and motivations behind the Inquisition have not, and instead of dying out, the force behind it has grown ever stronger.

The intent of the Inquisition is to force oneís ideological beliefs upon others, making them act, talk, and even think in the ways that one thinks is the correct way. No method, no matter how cruel, is considered off limits for fear that the enemy will seek refuge in your mercy. Death and torture are last resorts, but are used to as a way to rule through fear, and of course the threat of severe punishment must be made credible. Where once the rack, thumb screws, and red hot pincers were used, the gas chamber, the death squad, and high yield bomb take their place. The more stubborn the enemy is, the more determined the Inquisitor must be. Evil must be rooted out at all costs.

Few things have changed over the centuries. The enemy is demonized and dehumanized, aggression is rationalized, and lasting peace is always promised if the enemy simply submits to the obviously superior ideology of the Inquisitor. And the wheels of the Inquisition keep turning as long as another enemy can be found. In the middle ages it was the Moors, the Jews, the Heretics, the Pagans, and those heathens of the other church. Today it is the Nazis, the Communists, the Islamic fundamentalists, and the "Terrorists" as well as drug dealers, child molesters, rapists, and anyone else unfortunate enough to end up on the wrong side public opinion.

But of course the West now opposes the Inquisition. "Thatís what weíre fighting against.", a Westerner might say not knowing that the ones in charge of the Inquisition believed the very same thing. The church did not want to do those things either, but they believed that they had no choice. Modern claims that the fight is to "protect our civilization", that it is "self-defense", and that it is a "battle against evil" differ from those used to justify the Crusades and Inquisition only in semantics. Replace "church" with "state" and "salvation" with "freedom" and modern leaders sound exactly like their counterparts from the middle ages. Then, all had to be saved by the mercy of Jesus Christ so that they may live eternally in heaven. Now, all must live under Democracy and Capitalism so that they may live free and pursue happiness. If some have to die so that all may enjoy the fruits of freedom, then itís a price western leaders are willing to pay, at others expense. Bush was right when he said the war on terror was a Crusade. But then, this time weíre right, right?

The Crusades, the Inquisition, and Christianity are also the topics covered with the latest cuts from the Fireaxe studio. They chart the transformation of Christianity from a Jewish reform movement to a tyrannical institution. Jesus is crucified in "The Tower of Pain" and Christians slaughter Muslims during the Crusades in "Them". Bigger news still is that "Food for the Gods" will span more than one CD. Nearly 110 minutes of new material has been recorded and more is on the way. Also, the seven part series "On the Origins of Violence" has been compiled into a single document and is available on the net.

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

Rough cuts from the Fireaxe studio - "The Tower of Pain" and "Them"

Recording on the next Fireaxe CD, "Food for the Gods" is moving along steadily. The digital studio is working out very well and the sound quality is another major step up from that previously attained in "Lovecraftian Nightmares". The sixth and seventh preview tracks are now available as mp3s for free.

The name of the sixth preview track is "The Tower of Pain" and tells the story of Christ and the rise of Christianity. Although it is unavoidable that it is my "take" on the subject, I filled the lyrics of the song with direct quotes from the New Testament with most coming directly from Jesus and Paul, or at least as direct as anyone can be sure that they are. My intent in "Food for the Gods" is not merely to look to history for inspiration for songs, but to shine a new light on history from a nihilistic perspective and to be as honest as possible. I think that having no political agenda tied to oneís interpretation is the only way to gain a complete understanding of history. Thus, with nihilism, I am potentially free from having to put the facts through contortions to support a political or religious belief. Simply tearing away the facades of right and wrong, and good and evil from the characters and event in history yields a fresh new view. It also frightens those who are greatly personally invested in their ideologies, but then art is supposed to challenge.

For years the question of why Christianity has won the hearts and minds of millions has made me look beyond the simple explanations. Sure it promises a wonderful afterlife and the threat of hell can be used to keep followers in line, but it seemed that there was something about the Christ symbol itself that found traction in the psyche of men two thousand years ago and which continues to do so today. So I pulled out my childhood copy of the bible and began to read in a very analytical manner, trying to find the verses that generate powerful psychological conditioning. According to my working theory (See the Origins of Violence essay series) that consciousness had dawned only about a thousand years prior to Jesus and that the first millennium BC was a time of great social as well as psychological upheaval, the minds of the people in that time were desperately trying to cope with the loss of divine authority. Kingdoms rose and fell, armies stole or destroyed divine statues and holy temples, and the ways of the past no longer worked in the present. Tradition and gods, which were essentially one and the same, went from being reliable to being erratic or completely incapable of solving problems. Worshippers were fickle and changed gods often and kings used coercion to force religious submission. Also, the absence of a reliable god prevented worshippers from receiving a divine blessing when needed. In psychological terms this means that they could no longer find a regular source of positive reinforcement. If a god was not psychologically reliable, making a sacrifice to it did not always result in a feeling of security and purpose. Without a sense of purpose, which had before been bestowed by gods carved in stone, life is difficult indeed. Of course, the Jews had a god that was reliable and all powerful, but the Jewish interpretation of negative events, that god was punishing them for doing something wrong, did not give most a sense of security.

Then came the prophet, or more accurately, thousands of prophets. Not all with the same idea, but all with something that worked for them at least, and who were trying to spread their ideas to others. Jesus was one of those, or perhaps was a compilation of many of them. Maybe he existed, and maybe not, but it actually doesnít matter since his story and words are all important. The theme of his story is that you find salvation through suffering. This theme runs through the sermon on the mount to the sacrifice on the cross. And it is not just any suffering, it is suffering in silence with submission to and faith in a single invisible all-powerful god. If you suffer in silence and obedience, you will receive eternal life. This is the connection that links bad things happening to feelings of blessing, or at least feelings that some good will eventually come. God is not punishing you, god is testing you. Remaining faithful is passing the test. Another difference with Judaism is that the rewards were all in heaven, not on earth. The Jewish tradition, with David and Job as its martyrs, were all rewarded with earthly riches. A poor but faithful Jew could become skeptical at his lack of wealth, but Christians could always look forward to a reward. Weíve heard them all before but consider Jesusí messages again in this light: "Blessed are the poor", "the meek shall inherit the earth", "when men persecute you, rejoice and be glad", "Do not resist one who is evil", "Turn the other cheek", "He who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me", "Judge not lest ye be judged", "When you pray do so in private", etc. The common theme is to quietly suffer hardships and to trust in god to right all the wrongs done to you during your life while not doing any wrongs yourself. The goal is to do on earth as it is in heaven, in essence being as holy as possible no matter what. In doing so you become like an angel.

Psychologically this works by connecting suffering with feelings of heavenly ascension and divine blessing. When times are good a person will naturally feel good, but when times are bad they can always find comfort in their suffering by remaining faithful and knowing that god is real and still loves them. Suffering followed by submission becomes the trigger for a conditioned good response. Suffering is divine. This is the conditioning that enables Christianity to take root. Suffering for god bestows a sense of security and purpose.

So where does all this positive conditioning come from? The usual sources are the traditional links between the abstract god concept and tangible good things. Saying grace or attending church before a meal is a remarkably Pavlovian form of conditioning as well as the continual crediting of god for all things good that happen. But at the heart of Christian conditioning lies the strong positive connections forged in infancy between a child and a parent. An infant is helpless and completely dependent and when it receives parental love it associates the helpless feeling with being cared for. Also, when the child is older it learns that submission to parental authority is the way to get rewards. These connections still exist in the adult mind although those forged in infancy are mostly dormant and unused. They can be reawakened with Christian conditioning by regressing to the childlike state, at least temporarily, during rituals such as prayer. By responding to suffering with submission to a godlike figure the old child-parent conditioning is triggered and good feelings flow once again. There is also a point when you are enduring severe pain where endorphins begin to flow and relieve the pain. This can be also be evoked during rituals and interpreted as a divine blessing although it is a natural bodily reaction.

Now, getting back to the song. "The Tower of Pain" is a part of the full track titled "The Prophet" which tells the story from the sermon on the mount to the Christiansí struggle in Rome. "The Tower of Pain", is about Jesusí reformist rebellion and his crucifixion. According to the story Jesus willingly goes to die on the cross, an excruciatingly painful death, after speaking out very emphatically about the Phariseesí approach to running the church. When they decide that he is a heretic and must be put to death he does not fight or resist the decision. In the song Jesus says "I must practice what I preach, I must climb the tower of pain", meaning that he will die for what he believes to prove that he isnít a hypocrite. In so doing he sets the gold standard for Christian suffering. Who could ever suffer more than Jesus? It makes whatever you are going though seem minor in comparison.

Adding to the theme of salvation through suffering, the apostle Paul drives home the idea of divine punishment by invoking the powerful image of a god to be feared. Paul is in essence the first Christian evangelist and rails against sinners while simultaneously promising deliverance if one submits. Thus the core of a powerful belief is born. With this new found ability to maintain their faith despite severe hardships, Christians were able to endure centuries of persecution at the hands of the Romans and eventually conquer the empire from within. Being able to endure suffering is a powerful tool, but as we all know, power corrupts.

The music in the song is eclectic. I recently acquired a keyboard (Yamaha PSRGX-76) that has extremely good samples with touch sensitive tonal changes. The grand piano sounds absolutely real, and other settings are top notch. The track begins with a soft piano introduction which lifts into the mainline and somewhat funky rhythm guitar parts. Intermixed are the chorus, the "Lordís Prayer" (believe it or not), and goes on to the climactic "Tower of Pain" passage. The last part is on the track available on mp3 and it is extremely intense. With a little imagination you should have no trouble imagining Christ on the cross.

So is it "Christian metal"? I registered it with that as one of the genres on IUMA, so at some point a Christian metal fan is probably going to download it and think that Fireaxe is a new Christian metal band. Just thinking about that makes me laugh, but I approach the song as I did the other tracks, portraying the subject as flawed but heroic. Jesus is given the same charismatic appeal as Tiglath Pilesar, Akenaten, Joshua, and the Servant of Pain. So a Christian might like this song even after they find out what I intended it to mean.

The name of the seventh preview track is "Them" and it is not at all like the King Diamond track. The theme of "Them" is one of demonizing and scapegoating a group of people and making them the target of retribution. The full song covers the Crusades, the Inquisition, and modern forms of dehumanization. The mp3 cut from it features the Crusades, specifically the destruction of Jerusalem in 1099. Once again I go for historical accuracy throughout the song. Almost every word is taken from historiansí accounts of the battle and the events surrounding the Crusades. Of the cut on the site, only the lines "The blood of the martyr is the grease for the wheels of the war machine" and "No mercy, no fear, a holy slaughter, in the name of the Lord" are ones I made up myself. But you will notice that they fit in perfectly with the rest of the lines, taken almost verbatim from the history books. For instance, the line "The dead littered the streets, what a wonderful site" was penned by someone who was at the battle for Jerusalem. The juxtaposition of gory details and the idea that this was for the "Glory of God" is something that period authors made, and not out of sarcasm either.

The music fits the theme well. A slow march leading up to the battle which is reaches a fevered pitch and then descends into glorious revelry and victory. The "Them" chorus drives the song title home as I sing words written nearly a thousand years ago that demonize the Muslim enemies. Itís cool. I also gave this song the Christian metal genre. He he he. Itís appropriate I think.

The Crusades, Inquisition, witch burning, etc., are all examples of how being able to suffer leads new levels of abuses. War, for instance, is all about being able to suffer greater hardships than your enemy. If your soldiers are able to stand on the front lines girding themselves with prayers while taking heavy losses, you have a better chance of defeating an enemy that routs under similar conditions. Torture requires strength both to endure it and to inflict it. To give you an example there was this thing they used during the Inquisition called a "pear" which was a pear shaped object with three spikes sticking out at the big end. The pear could be inserted into someoneís mouth, rectum, or vagina. Then the torturers would turn a screw at the end of the pear which would slowly widen the body of the pear inside the victim since the pear was hollow and was made with three pieces attached at the crank end. The more the pear was cranked, the further the pieces would spread apart and the deeper the spikes would dig into the victimís throat, rectum, or vagina. Imagine suffering that. Also imagine doing that to someone. It should be difficult, yet people did these things to other people and also endured them without confessing. How? Religious conditioning. Fear of hell, good feelings following suffering and faithfulness, and the satisfaction of resisting or defeating the enemy fueled them and gave them the resolve to do all these things. But before we start thinking that itís something that we could never do or never endure itís important to remember that these people were just the extreme cases. Exceptionally stubborn people were required in both roles. As time has gone on since then, the bar has been raised across the board. Suffering to achieve a goal is something that has proliferated, especially in capitalistic societies where large rewards are dangled in front of athletes, businessmen, musicians, and almost everyone else at certain times. The lengths that people will go, enduring hardships along the way for no certain payoff, grow greater with each passing year. War has grown similarly terrifying. Preparing troops for modern mechanized warfare means making them able to endure onslaughts of explosions, bullets, fire, gas, and destructive force unthinkable in centuries past. The latest weapon, the suicide bomber, is just the next evolution of this process, which is simply not going to stop. Bush has made it clear that he will use tactical nuclear weapons if necessary and each new battle seems to produce another level of determination and suffering. The cycle continues, and each time around we take Pandoraís box and give it a good shake to see what comes out next. So as individuals we may be less able to endure suffering as the most stubborn people during the middle ages, on the whole we are much more capable. Itís the only way that one can survive.

One thing is for certain, Christian or not weíre all on the cross.

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

Of course I realize that my take on Christianity is wrong. I know this because in every argument Iíve ever had with a Christian it was made clear to me that I did not understand who God was or what Jesus meant or what Christianity was all about. The simple proof was that I did not believe. If I did understand, I would believe, so that is that. Thus, Christians out there can rest assured that I am wrong and that God will indeed save them if they are good. And, maybe, he will save me as well just because heís a nice guy.

I apologize for my evil influences.

"Food for the Gods" to be a multi-CD project

One CD is not enough to contain "Food for the Gods" and I have no desire to try to force everything I want to put into this project on to an 80 minute disk. The average Fireaxe song is over 7 minutes long and seldom follows typical song structure. This is something that has been true since the very first release. Iíve never been one to follow musical conventions or to let arbitrarily defined limits impose on my creations, and thus the one CD limit on musical releases will not be an exception. It will be done when Iím done with it.

Which puts me in a quandary. The material I have lined up to record plus the time to mix and master everything could easily push the release to next year, perhaps even a year from now, and that is a long time for you to wait, especially since itís been a couple years since the last Fireaxe CD. I suppose that getting more than 1 CD with "Food for the Gods" will make up for the long wait, but I feel obligated to offer something in the meantime, something more than a few mp3s to download to whet your appetite.

Iím reluctant to release "Food for the Gods" piecemeal, with the first CD coming out soon and the next in a year or so. Iíd like the work to be complete. Itís a concept project and I want to present it to you as a cohesive whole. However, for those of you out there who are hungry for a taste of the new project Iíd be happy to send you a copy of the first CD in unmastered form. There will be no booklet, no insert, no label, maybe just "Fireaxe - Food for the Gods" scribbled on the disk itself, but it would be packed with the very latest Fireaxe music.

Iíd be very interested in hearing what you think about this idea. Send me e-mail and give me your thoughts or to request an advance copy. Your feedback is appreciated.

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.

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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