The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 5.6

Sept 27, 2002

"...the peace of the world must never again be destroyed
by the will and wickedness of any man."
- President Bush, blissfully unaware of the
irony pervading his address to the UN

Perhaps the greatest irony is that we desire peace and security above all but somehow we get drawn into war after war with no end in sight. The answer lies in the questions that no one seems willing to ask. How often do you hear, "What kind of peace?", or "How much security?", or "What are the consequences of breaking the rules and who will judge and enforce them?"? Like the concept of a god, everyone seems to know exactly what the ideals of peace and security are but when it comes down to defining exactly what they mean no one can agree and everyone seems willing to fight to defend their beliefs, to the death if necessary. Thus, the battle is not for peace per se, but for a narrowly defined vision of peace that is always decided by the winners of the wars.

Even more disturbing is the fact that peace is not exactly peaceful. Democracies are rife with conflict as competition for resources drives people to extremes that often push them beyond their limits and beyond the law. Dictatorships impose order and use force to subjugate the unwilling. And all leaders must struggle to elevate their nations to a level where they do not have to fear military or economic conquest. Peace and security seem to exist only in dreams.

A world where paranoia and insecurity are the norm is one where extremism can easily take root. All ideologies exploit those who yearn for peace and justice, but as the suffering becomes more extreme, so too do the ideologies that people are willing to embrace. The more extreme the ideology, the more aggressive and reactionary its people behave to achieve peace and justice and the more suffering they add to the world as a result. The suffering generates more extremism and the level of global conflict is ratcheted up another notch.

Of all the things that people yearn for which ideologies offer: peace, salvation, love, security; it is justice that people demand with the greatest passion. When the guilty are raping the earth and they are not being punished for their sins it is difficult for a person to stand by and pretend that all is right with the world. The desire to punish can exceed all other desires and no ideology, whether it be one that advocates suicide bombing, or one that advocates the preemptive use of deadly force, is so extreme that it cannot find people to do its bidding. Each side grows more extreme in reaction to the other and last yearís immoral acts are this yearís war strategies. Down, down, down we go.

How suffering drives people to embrace extremism is at the heart of both new rough cuts from the Fireaxe studio. "River of Madness" is about how loss and despair drive people to embrace dreams of salvation and retribution. "The Soul Doctors" is about one manís descent into a extremist ideology that takes over his will. The latter is also yet another razor sharp contribution by Octavio Ramos, the author of "Hounds of Tindalos" and "Whispers in the Night". Two full CDs of new material has been recorded for "Food for the Gods" and it is building towards a climactic third.

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

Rough cuts from the Fireaxe studio - "River of Madness" and "The Soul Doctors"

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 tenth and eleventh preview tracks are now available as mp3s for free.

The name of the tenth preview track is "River of Madness" and it is about the forces that drive people to embrace dreams and seek to turn them into reality. But the track is far from uplifting, as one might expect from Fireaxe, and the dark side of dreams is explored in grim passages and desperate verses. The song itself flows like a river, smooth and meandering in places, rough and tumultuous in others, and is both threatening and inviting at the same time. The song attempts to capture the ebb and flow of a mind struggling to remain sane. At some times everything is fine, but as hardships accumulate and become unbearable, anxieties grow and build to a breaking point. Once past breaking, despair and depression take over, filling the mind with awful visions until they once again give way to hopes and dreams and the promise of a better world. People become strongly attached to their dreams since they see them as their last line of defense against hopelessness, meaninglessness, and insanity. But dreams are a product of our brushes with madness, as the signature verse from the song reveals:

"Come down to the river of madness and get baptized,
drink deep from the source of all dreams."

Dreams are just idealized visions of what the world would be like if one or more of our troubles no longer exist. Some of our troubles are minor, and we can dream of ways to make them go away and make those dreams into reality relatively easily. But some of our troubles are far more disturbing, and very difficult to solve. These are troubles that eat at the very core of our being. One such trouble is when the god that you trust, worship, and obey no longer answers your prayers and appears to have forsaken both you and the entire world. Another is when the person you love with all of your heart turns away and never comes back. These things leave a profoundly empty feeling inside that can drag you into the depths of madness. They leave you searching for a dream that will take away the pain and make you willing to do just about anything to make that dream come true.

The song flows through several trials and tribulations, stopping in the depths of despair every so often to put forth a nightmarish vision. "Food for the Gods" contains quite a few disturbing images, many of them violent and brutal, but the following quietly delivered passage that you can hear in the rough cut is perhaps one of the worst...

"Maybe god wants us to fight,
to spill each otherís blood and take our brothersí lives.
Sitting there in heaven, with a smile on his face,
our wars are his sport, as we kill in his name."

It would certainly explain a lot.

But there is no need to dwell on such uncomfortable and frightening ideas when peace and salvation can be imagined and worked towards in the form of a new dream. When your god doesnít seem to answer, you can envision a new god that does or at least find new ways to appease your old god, who is obviously silent out of anger. When the love of your life turns away for good you can envision a new lover and search the world to find him or her. And when justice never seems to be done you can take it upon yourself to bring retribution down upon the guilty. Not all dreams are benevolent, and all inspire people to force their will upon the world whether the rest of the world likes it or not. But often we are left with two uncomfortable choices, either to pursue our dreams and invite conflict with the world, or to give up our dreams and be dragged into the pit of despair. As the song goes, there are two paths to insanity, trying to be who others want and trying to be who you want to be. Choose your poison.

The name of the eleventh preview track is "The Soul Doctors" and once again Octavio Ramos gets to play puppet master with Fireaxe. Octavio submitted the lyrics to me over two years ago and he has waited a long time to finally hear them put to music. He wonít be disappointed. The theme of "The Soul Doctors" fits in perfectly with "Food for the Gods", but since it fit in better with the songs I wanted for the modern era rather than the historical songs, it took a while to finally get to it. The song is about a man who is desperately searching for an answer to lifeís big questions and who finds them within a radical conformist ideology. In order to become part of the movement, he must undergo a treatment by the soul doctors, who will remove the sinful and hateful parts of his self in order to make him free. Octavio is at his artistic best in describing the sadism and horror of the manís spiritual surrender. I do my best to sing the lyrics with the intensity they deserve. The convert trades in his identity for salvation and righteousness and becomes a priest in the new order, but along the way he slowly becomes aware of the awful truth at the heart of the movement. He realizes that the movement does not follow god, the movement IS god.

Contrary to what the title might suggest, "The Soul Doctors" is not a funk metal tribute to James Brown. But it does depart from the classic Fireaxe powerthrash by containing musical elements usually associated with religious services. To set the mood I use a booming church organ and an angelic choir. Both sounds are provided by my Yamaha keyboard which has an incredibly great sounding church organ and a passable sounding choir (not cheesy but obviously synthetic, forgive me). Over the choir I sing the first verse, a mellow invitation, which gives way to a thunderous guitar riff where I deliver a seriously scary anti-individualism hellfire sermon. The ferocity stops for a brief moment while the main character of the song bows to the will of the soul doctors, after which it jumps into a razor sharp riff and then into perhaps the most amazingly unholy sound that Iíve ever produced.

I didnít intend to mix the church organ with the distorted guitars when I first recorded the song. In fact, I didnít think that it would sound well at all. But I felt that the most dramatic parts of the song needed a little boost so I gave it a try. What a payoff. The sound is amazing, and yes you too can hear it on the mp3 rough cuts Iíve made available. Be warned that if you are impressionable, listening to the cut might have you on your knees bowing to the church of heavy metal (snicker). Thereís something about how a pipe organ sounds when you play chords, especially minor ones, that the Yamaha people worked hard to put into their keyboard. Itís hard to describe, but itís something that you feel rather than hear. The notes in the chords donít exactly go together but the donít exactly clash either, and the harmony produced is far more than the sum of the parts. When you add to that the power of two electric guitars, drums, bass, and some lunatic singing his head off, the result is overpowering. I like it.

One of the things that happens to the convert in "The Soul Doctors" is that the doctors extinguish the multitude of "voices" in his head and replace them with a single commanding one which forces him to obey. Although this sounds like schizophrenia, it is the essence of the human religious experience. In ancient times there was only one voice to hear and obey, that of the god-king. All was peaceful for the most part as there was little confusion as to what anyone was supposed to be doing. The god-kingís word was law. But as ancient societies grew and communicated through trade the voices of other god-kings begin to spread and people were faced with the dilemma of having to decide which voice was right. One solution is to make one voice stand out above all the others as the supreme authority. To do that requires powerful psychological conditioning, and most religions and all cults have mastered the art. Needless to say the problem of trying to decide which one of the many "voices" that we hear is correct is one that has never been solved and we struggle with it today with greater and greater intensity. Everywhere you look there are ideologies of every sort try to sell themselves as being the one true path. In a world of chaos and confusion, many of us yearn for an absolute truth, a single voice that silences all the others. Octavio nails this theme perfectly in "The Soul Doctors".

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

***Disclaimer***

Fireaxe would like express that even though religion, dream chasing, and adhering to any ideology is inherently pathological, I by no means am referring to your particular religion, dream or ideology. You are just fine. Itís all those other lunatics out there who are believing in foolish things, screwing things up for you, and in general making messes that you have to clean up. Likewise, I am not one of "those" kinds of people either. Weíre together, fighting side by side against all the worldís idiots. Furthermore, the obvious solution for cleansing the world of all this madness is to buy more Fireaxe merchandise. Please do your part.

"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. "Food for the Gods" needs to span three CDs, and so three CDs it will be.

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 three CDs 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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