The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 5.5

Aug 5, 2002

"The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
The rulers feast while policemen keep order.
All the powerful stink of corruption.
All thatís noble is drowned in lies."
- Fireaxe, "Raise the Black Flag"

Revolution. Itís a concept thatís almost unthinkable for modern democracies. How could a government that is designed around serving the will of the people ever become one to which the people are violently opposed? Yet a closer look at the history of revolutions reveals that it is not the political system to which the people object, but the failure of that system to meet the needs and desires of the people. As long as most people are making a good living for themselves and feel safe and secure, they will follow even the most ruthless dictator. What provokes most revolutions is when the system fails due to incompetence and brings widespread suffering. The winds of change blow and heads begin to roll.

Western democracies have had it good for decades with the last decade being one of exceptional growth. It seems that everyone has been convinced that democracy with capitalism is the best, or perhaps only, path to prosperity, and it is hard to argue against it. It is even strongly held that democracy and capitalism have succeeded because they are more "natural", as if finding a better way to exploit the human condition is anything to be proud of, but the voracious desires of so many wealthy capitalists are anything but natural, and neither capitalism nor democracy is in any way immune to widespread corruption and the usurpation of power. The only question is whether or not the ship can right itself when cracks appear and it begins to take on water. And now the cracks are appearing.

The world might once again be plunged into economic chaos as part of a predictable cycle of rapid growth and harsh corrections. Many are feeling more and more insecure due to the threat of terrorism and the fear spread by those who use that threat to seize power. The most powerful democracy in the world is embracing the oppressive tactics of its former enemies and anger and discontentment are rising on a global scale. The voices of reason and restraint are being shouted down by the voices of force and aggression. Extremism is on the rise. The world is becoming a powder keg.

In the United States a profound distrust is growing among the commoners towards the ruling elite. There has always been a degree of contempt towards greedy businessmen and lying politicians but as long as everyone was doing well it never got beyond the level of playful derision. But one wonders how long the people can stand the deception on high as their jobs, retirement, future, security, and even their very lives are being eroded before their eyes. Personally Iím surprised by our complacency, but I feel that I might be equally surprised by our thirst for retaliation should the conditions in the country worsen dramatically. For Americans these days, the "new normalcy" is highly reactionary with a strong tendency to lash out against perceived injustice. So far the dissent has mainly been in the form of words, but the words have been strong and soon the words may turn into deeds of equal ferocity.

But could a revolution ever happen in a western democracy? Could the unthinkable ever happen, with the people in power being dragged into the streets and put to death in a chaotic orgy of destruction? There is no question that all people are capable of such violence, and that the civilizing process makes people more violent when they reach an unbearable level of insecurity. The only question that remains is if we will one day reach that level, or perhaps more correctly, *when* is it that we will reach that level.

A song depicting the age of revolutions is one of the latest of two rough cuts from the Fireaxe studio. "Raise the Black Flag" is an epic about revolution and rebirth while "Where Eagles Fly" is about the rise and decline of a kingdom. The two go hand in hand. Nearly 140 minutes of new material has been recorded for "Food for the Gods" and more is on the way. It promises to be an epic of epic proportions.

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

Rough cuts from the Fireaxe studio - "Where Eagles Fly" and "Raise the Black Flag"

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 eighth and ninth preview tracks are now available as mp3s for free.

The name of the eighth preview track is "Where Eagles Fly" and is part of a longer song "Guardian of the Realm" which tells the story of a kingdomís rise to power from the perspective of the kingís champion. The cut describes the heroís stunning victory against a veteran champion of a rival kingdom. I guarantee that youíre going to like it as itís one of my favorite moments from the recordings so far. After a brief introduction to set the stage the drums start pounding with a thunderous beat as the crowd chantís "V-O-D for Victory!", then the guitars fire up and the tension builds. The two champions meet in the arena and exchange words and soon the battle is joined. The drums pound even heavier and the song erupts into a scorching guitar solo duel. The battle is fast and furious as I get into some serious old school shredding and culminates with the heroís victory where the music breaks into a truly uplifting crescendo. If your heart doesnít go out to the hero at that moment then you simply donít have one (snicker).

The rough cut ends there, but since this is a Fireaxe song you know that it isnít going to have a happy ending. Indeed all is not as it seems. In the exchange between the two champions the veteran says to the hero:

"Hey kid letís stop this madness, are we just high priced slaves?
Both kings are tyrants, they should fight in our place."

And after the hero rebukes him:

"If youíre strong enough, one day youíll understand,
But not before youíve sealed the fate, of another generation."

Not exactly fighting words. But the hero is too caught up in the moment to think about what the veteran meant. And in the years that follow, the hero proves to be a great champion and adds much to the prosperity of the kingdom with his exploits. Dangers, concerns, and warnings couldnít seem any more wrong.

Then the hero begins to see things more for what they are. The facade of righteousness that characterized his rise to power falls away revealing the greed and lust at its source. Instead of fighting the good fight he sees that his king and countrymen are just voraciously devouring everything that they can get their hands on. When they arenít trampling the helpless people of other countries they are stealing from each other. The hero becomes disillusioned and finally realizes that his king is indeed a tyrant. He also realizes that he is trapped in his role as the kingís champion and is powerless to set things right or even to stop the madness. He has become a high priced slave. The monologue that the hero delivers in the song is another wonderful moment. A guitar solo slows and gives way to a poignant piano and vocal section where the hero laments his fate. The lusts of his king and his countrymen are too strong. They need victory and will not call off the attack. Even the hero realizes that his need for victory, to hear the cheers and the screams of the crowd, is too powerful for him to deny. He realizes that there is no escape from the arena as he walks out to face another champion. The pounding drums and chant sound again, but this time the full chant is given, "V-O-D Victory or Death!". The riffs are the same but the feel is totally different from the rough cut. Excitement has been replaced by dread. The effect is totally cool. At the end the hero sees the youthful champion on the other side of the arena and realizes that now he is the veteran wishing that he could stop the madness. The song has come full circle.

Although set roughly some time in the middle ages, this is not a historical song like many of the other tracks on "Food for the Gods". It is intended to be a symbolic song reaching far beyond the days of knights and kings to the present day. Arenas and champions are very much alive and well today in sporting events as well as in politics, law, businesses, and anywhere where there is competition. So many of us have a thirst for hero worship and dream of becoming a victorious champion. For some of us the drive is stronger than others, but there is no shortage of people willing to risk so much for the shot at becoming a champion. The rest of us experience their victories vicariously and shower our heroes with accolades when they win.

But there is a dark side to all of this and one that we like to keep out of sight. Athletes abuse their bodies with drugs to enhance their performance or shorten their lives and degrade their health by pushing themselves far beyond their limits. Champions in other arenas make similar Faustian deals looking for any advantage over their competition by legal or illegal means. We stress ourselves to the maximum to get what we must have. On the level of nations the stakes are even higher and the consequences more deleterious. Cheering oneís soldiers to victory while claiming rights over the possessions of vanquished enemies can be equally addicting, and like addiction it is difficult or even impossible to break the cycle. For whenever a veteran champion looks upon his deeds, sees what he has wrought, and speaks out to try and stop the madness, he is skewered by a young and hungry champion who takes his place and leads the next charge. The song captures this vicious circle beautifully. I regret that I can only whet your appetites with the rough cuts, but for now something is better than nothing.

The name of the ninth preview track is "Raise the Black Flag" and it is another historical song which deals with the era that we are currently in, that of revolutions. Although many revolutions have happened over the last 226 years and have resulted in distinctly different forms of government (from democracy to communism to socialism), the basic themes behind them are all quite similar. The goal of these revolutions has been to empower the people so that they can better resist the control of a central governing body. Ideally people are freed from much of the control of those in power and become more self-directed and empowered thereby increasing their happiness and productivity. New governments are created to be secular to break up the religious power structure, and most traditions are cast away to allow greater mobility and freedom for the people. Regardless of the ideology, the call to revolution has been the call to freedom.

Ironically, and also regardless of ideology, the intent to move power from a central government to the common people has always resulted in a more powerful central government with common people more powerless against it. Freedom, a term which can be best described as empowerment to achieve oneís goals, is not related to ideology, it is related to prosperity. The better off the country is, the more free the people are to pursue their goals, and the less the government demands of the people. As long as times are good, no one minds that the revolution didnít quite come off as planned nor even realizes that it didnít. The causes of revolutions are also very similar. Corruption and incompetence in the ranks of those in power combined with a period of economic hardship or military defeat have prefaced most violent revolutions. The widespread discontent and the powerlessness of the system to restore prosperity usually results in revolution. This can be compared with the collapses of the god-king based societies in ancient times. In those cases, when the god-king ran out of answers and traditional solutions no longer worked for new problems there was chaos and turmoil and eventually a new god, or at least a new interpretation of an old god rose to unite the people once again. These "divine revolutions" were often followed by a period of war and expansion as the people spread their new faith. The similarities between those revolutions and modern ones are profound. In both cases the former ways of doing things no longer worked be they either a religious tradition or a set of laws, and those in charge no longer had the answers be they god-kings, priests, dictators, or legislators. In the ensuing conflagration the former ideology was discarded and a new one was created. A new god was born. But these days we do not refer to our systems of government as gods nor do we claim that they were inspired by divine entities. Instead we define the authority behind a system of laws to be that of the will of the people and not the will of a god. However, nations have always been led by the acquiescence of the people whether they gave the reigns of power to a man who claimed to know the will of god or a man who claimed to know the will of the people. A political ideology is functionally equivalent to a god. "Freedom" is in essence the new god of modern revolutions with each nation having its own interpretation of the word.

Also similar to all revolutions is that they are inevitably followed by a period of militarism and expansion. The French revolution led to Napoleonís conquests, the German socialist revolution led to Hitler and WWII, and the American revolution led to the westward expansion, numerous wars with the Spanish, French, Mexicans, and British, the global battle against communism, and the current war on terror. It is the USís military conquests that held Russia and China in check after their revolutions, slowing their spread to neighboring countries. The theme of believers spreading the word of their new god across the earth occurs throughout history and by making the connection between the concept of god and a political ideology one can see that the historical trend has continued despite claims that we live in a secular age. Weíre still conquering for our god regardless of the terms that we use. Of course, "liberating" a country and establishing an elected government sounds a lot better than conquering a country and forcibly converting them to democracy, but the two things are essentially equivalent. Attaching negative meanings to the old terms allows us to disparage our less advanced enemies for doing essentially the same thing that we are doing.

Now, enough of the political discourse, itís time to talk about music. The cut from "Raise the Black Flag" describes the motivating forces behind revolutions as well as depictions of the chaos in the streets. The dark bass driven beginnings capture the feelings of betrayal and the social inequities. Revolutionary stirrings and distorted rhythms build slowly and pick up speed until they begin to break out. The music and the lyrics become more heated as the conflict between the state and the resistance reaches a critical point. The king shouts, "You will obey me!", and the people respond with a simple but earth shaking "No". Out of that erupts the powerful chorus:

"Raise the Black Flag, and scream ĎDeath to the king!í
Raise the Black Flag, and beat your plowshare into a sword.
Raise the Black Flag, let nothing sacred stand in your way.
Raise the Black Flag, and release your inner will, to kill."

followed by furious riffing, soloing, and violent lyrics that describe the chaos and bloodshed indicative of revolutions. I drew most of the depictions from the French Revolution as is evident by the line "Bring the King and Queen, to the guillotine", but most revolutions follow a similar bloody pattern.

In the rest of the song I go into the darker side of modern revolutions. How they inevitably lead to conquest and bloodshed on an unprecedented level, and how the ideals of the revolution get undermined with the ruling elite seizing power, abusing it, and exploiting the people more than ever before. At one point in the song I use the phrase "enslaved to the god of freedom", which is a truly ironic twist. How can you be enslaved to freedom? As our prosperity runs out of gas, we will all find out.

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

***Disclaimer***

Fireaxe makes no apologies for the violent and revolutionary content of itís music. Material of a far more dangerous nature can be found within any holy book or in the history section of your local library. It you insist on expressing outrage about the things that you hear, see, and read, please do so in at least a partially sensible manner.

"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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