The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 6.1

Nov 30, 2002

"No matter how hard they try to hurt me, to beat
me down, and make me do what they want I will
never surrender. For as long as there is life within
my body I will stand in defiance of the entire world
and let no one tell me who I am."
- Fireaxe "Black Knight"

How many of us have uttered the quote above or something like it at some point in our lives? Many of us reach a threshold moment where we are forced to take a brave stand against seemingly impossible odds and risk all to assert our individual identities. The world tries to grind us down and we take a defiant stand against it. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose but deep inside we know that the only true way to lose is not to fight. Resistance is deeply ingrained within us.

It is no coincidence that this passion play has obvious parallels to the crucifixion of Jesus and to many stories of martyrdom in all religions. Righteous rebellion is common to all ideologies and serves as a powerful check against the tyranny of the majority and a powerful defense against a more powerful enemy. Stories of rebels and martyrs inspire us to fight for what we believe is right no matter how many people are telling us that we are wrong. The thirst for vindication is powerful motivation indeed.

But all power can, and likely will, be abused. The motivating forces of martyrdom can easily be exploited to defend any belief whether it is truthful or not. The more a struggle resembles one of an oppressive majority forcing its will on a righteous minority the more support a movementís leaders can gain by drawing parallels to other historic and successful struggles regardless of the accuracy of such comparisons. Martyrdom strikes a sensitive chord in all of us because we all feel that we are being assaulted by powerful forces beyond our control. When the desire for vindication is given a direction, and the intangible other is given a face, we feel compelled to follow and seek revenge.

The call of martyrdom is ever-present. Everyone it seems from individuals to groups to movements to institutions to nations present themselves as struggling, suffering, and fighting valiantly against forces of oppression that are bent on their destruction. In many cases this is true, but in almost every instance each side can say that they are the victims and present many examples of how they are being oppressed and attacked unjustly. Both sides can claim martyrdom, as illogical as that may seem, but in the desire to defend righteousness, logic is often forgotten. After enough pain and suffering has been endured, emotions can always be brought forth to silence dissent and rule the day. Our world has become one of endless suffering and struggle with all sides believing that they are fighting for their lives against a tyrannous and unrighteous foe.

On a similar note, the theme of "Food for the Gods" also deals with this continuing descent into hell. The latest rough cut "I Live in Silence" deals with the issue of an individualís struggle against a world that is slowly squashing the life out of them. Hopelessness and despair are the order or the day. Also, this issue marks the beginning of the sixth year of the Burning Blade and while that may seem like a long lifetime for a musical project that has only two CDs and one tape to its name, before too long three new CDs making up "Food for the Gods" will be added to the Fireaxe discography. Your ears will runneth over.

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

Rough cut from the Fireaxe studio - "I Live in Silence"

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 twelfth preview track is now available as an mp3 for free.

The name of the twelfth preview track is "I Live in Silence" and it is about the isolation and despair that one experiences when they can no longer cope with a hostile world and retreats into a private realm to find relief. The cut is part of a truly epic twenty-two minute work titled "Black Knight" which describes in painful detail the slow descent of an outcast into a state of mind where a catastrophic act of murder-suicide appears to be the only way out. The theme describes the second path to insanity foreshadowed in the song "River of Madness" referring to what happens when you try to be who you want to be. The first path to insanity, trying to be who others want, is depicted in "The Soul Doctors". Note how these three songs tie together. Cool isnít it?

"Black Knight" tells the tale of a social misfit. It begins with the track "I Live in Silence" which is a heart wrenching and beautiful portrayal of the protagonistís life as he hides from a painful reality. The music flows back and forth between quiet hopefulness and pounding despair. And although escaping from reality lends him peace in a world of silence and darkness, the isolation brings with it feelings of loneliness and purposelessness. The protagonist can find no safe haven inside himself and is agonizingly pulled back into the real world.

The music is simple and compelling. In the first part the lyrics are sung in a whisper and backed by a piano or left to stand alone. When the line "I live in silence" is delivered you can hear it echoing around in what feels like a dark, empty void, perfectly complimenting the mood of the song. Between sections I mix light drumming and a solo guitar in with the piano and it sounds absolutely wonderful. I do not regret for a moment buying a keyboard and using it for many of the tracks in "Food for the Gods". It adds so much to the sound and feel. In contrast the two choruses feature the injection of distorted rhythm guitars which punctuate the feelings of despair. The protagonist cries, "I canít go on!" and after the second chorus a solo guitar wails an angst ridden reply. If your favorite Fireaxe tracks are "Nathicana" and "Another Dream", this is going to be another one for you. Despite the fire and thrashing that most of the rough cuts contain, "Food for the Gods" has a number of softer sections which contribute greatly to the overall texture of the work.

But "I Live in Silence" is only the beginning of "Black Knight". The music flows into the next track where the protagonist describes the suffering that he must endure at the hands of his tormenters. It brings to mind the hazing rituals so many students must endure at their schools that turn their weekdays into nightmares. Indeed I had the many school shooting perpetrators in mind when I wrote the song but there are many parallels between those incidents and the many other murder-suicides that happen in the world today. The suffering the protagonist is subjected to leads him to make his declaration of defiance (the quote at the top), after which the suffering and hardship that gets heaped upon him for his act of rebellion is more severe than he can stand. He is pushed beyond his limit and he cracks. His life turns black.

It is then when he watches his beloved guardian angel fall from grace and become a demon goddess who whispers evil thoughts in his ears. If you listen to this track wearing headphones it will feel like a demon goddess is whispering evil thoughts in your ears. Do not be alarmed. Itís just me. And I strongly advise you not to follow any advice that you hear. The protagonist then stands on the edge of a fateful decision between lingering on in a pain filled life and seeking revenge by murdering his enemies. The song isnít perfectly clear on this, but the protagonist only fantasizes about going on a killing spree and what he would go through in the aftermath. The events in his fantasy are described in the songís climax which is both powerful and disturbing. As he lived, in agony, isolation, and hated by others, so does he die. He is made the scapegoat while the others wash their hands of all responsibility for what has happened. The final refrain, which comes after the protagonist has been sentenced to death, delivers the central theme of the song:

"I am not a killer, but if you take away my life
I will surely take you with me."

The protagonist pleads self defense, and who can deny him? While people are almost never at risk of life and limb when they are being harassed and abused by their peers and the authorities, it is their selves, their very identities that are often permanently scarred, broken and destroyed. We need to ask the question, is a life of pain, misery, and incompleteness worse than no life at all? Many people answer yes when they commit suicide. Is murdering a personís self the equivalent of murdering their body? These are uncomfortable questions that no one seems inclined to pose or answer. Instead whenever the topic of murder- suicide comes up, all attention is paid towards trying to identify the potential killers and dealing with them punitively rather than addressing the issues of what leads up to the killing acts in the first place. In almost every case, the ones guilty of abusing others get a free ride, which only encourages them to be more abusive.

Murder-suicides are quickly becoming a major problem facing the world. In terms of the number of people who die each year from such acts they are still nowhere near the top ten, but when you see how Columbine changed how schools treat their students and how the September 11 terrorist attacks changed how the United States treats the entire world you can see how far reaching their effects are. In both cases draconian measures were instituted to try to prevent future incidents with all of the blame being placed squarely on the perpetrators. High school students now face metal detectors, property searches, psychological profiling, and a variety of other invasive measures in an attempt to find out whether they might be planning a killing spree in their school. Similarly, the U.S. Government has violated many of the protections in the Bill of Rights in order to institute similar invasive measures in an attempt to find out who might be plotting an attack against the United States. On the surface these sound like regrettable but necessary provisions, and although if they were only a simple trade between freedom and security it would still be exactly the acquiescence to tyranny that the founding fathers warned us about, but a deeper understanding of the forces involved reveals that we are becoming both less free and less secure.

Roughly once a week a suicide bomber blows himself and many Israelis to pieces. At about the same rate a man in the U.S. kills his family or co-workers or strangers, and then himself. This phenomenon is relatively new in history, having truly emerged only in the last twenty years, and shows every sign of proliferating whether as part of an organized resistance or as a violent form of suicide. The disturbing part about trying to prevent such acts is that the common deterrent, the great likelihood of being caught and imprisoned for life, no longer works. If a person no longer cares about his life, killing a large number of people can be easily accomplished by doing something as simple as driving their car into a crowd of people. Preventing all such acts is a logistical impossibility, so most attention is paid to the more deadly forms of murder-suicide, especially those that target the rich and powerful. The process of prevention automatically takes power away from the citizenry and puts more power in the hands of central authority. It is naive to believe that such power will not be abused, to believe that such power will eventually be returned, and to believe that more power will not be seized simply because those in power are able to do so. History shows us that more oppression bring more dissension, which brings more oppression. By surrendering in the first place was lose the ability to reclaim what was lost. Of course there will likely be a reduction in the amount of terrorism do to the increase in vigilance, but one might ask whether living in a police state is preferable to being killed by a suicide bomber. It would seem that you cannot be safe from both.

So how did we descend into such a state where we can never enjoy the freedoms of the past ever again without the threat of someone trying to kill us? The answer is that the dynamics of our society demand that everyone be either aggressive, or at least vigilant, on every front in order maintain what we have. We are each infused with a self image that overlaps with what others define as their self image. Disputes over these overlaps draw us into conflicts in the name of self defense. We fight over prestigious positions, attractive lovers, money, power, etc., with all of us feeling entitled to more than we have. And we fight for good reason. If we are not aggressive in our defense of self, we will surely lose ground, and since attacking others is often the only way of defending yourself our noble intentions often disappear in the heat of battle. In other words, if your competition fights dirty, you must fight dirty in response or lose out, and we all get dragged down to the same level. But even as we all gravitate to using the same base tactics to maintain our place, we cannot be assured that those tactics will be effective in the future. There are always drives towards new methods and technologies which threaten all who do not have them. Thus, we are always searching for new ways to fortify our boundaries and to extend our interests. Complacency invariably has disastrous consequences.

This is true for all levels of social interaction whether it be between nations, corporations, religions, political parties, sports teams, or individuals. We are all simultaneously victims and victimizers, claiming self defense as we engage in an endless battle against our aggressive foes. There are no winners, since any ground gained always comes under attack, but there are certainly losers. When our sense of self is eroded beyond a certain point we will all conclude that life is not worth living. For each of us that point is different, and our reactions are different as well, but there will always be those of us who, when they reach that point, conclude that strapping on a bomb or going on a killing spree is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Trying to prevent such acts has the collateral effect of making them, or others of a more severe nature, occur more often.

This is reflected throughout the world. The tactics on either side grow more and more aggressive, punitive, and severe. Atrocities grow more atrocious, abuse is more humiliating, and the numbers involved grow larger and larger. Millions of deaths and rapes now seem commonplace, million dollar scandals have now become billions dollar scandals, and hazing in public schools has turned from verbal abuse and roughhousing to sexual assault and forcing studentís heads into toilets filled with excrement. One wonders when anal rape will become the new standard of abuse for asserting oneís dominance over oneís peers. With every year the collective pressure placed upon us all increases with no end in sight. Each solution seems to create two new problems, and each victory seems to be followed by two defeats. Every day a few more people reach their breaking point and respond in unpredictable and increasingly more destructive ways. Whenever one person, group, or nation raises the level of pressure, the repercussions are felt across the world, and result in more cases of instability, suffering, and blowback. Becoming bigger simply makes one a bigger target. And thus, in our quest to attain security and to restore our freedom, we invariably erode both.

The greatest tragedy lies in that there seems to be no way to reverse this trend. Punishing an individual of group of people and forcing them to retract will only lead to others expanding into the vacated ground with the battle lines drawn anew. Likewise, assisting an individual or group only helps them to take or take back from others who will fight to regain that ground. Since we are all pushing against each otherís boundaries there can be no peaceful state of existence, and the only time we find satisfaction is between the time when we achieve a victory and the time it takes for others to regroup and launch a counterattack. For the losers there is only the hope that we will one day win. Until then we suffer in silence.

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

***Disclaimer***

Fireaxe would like to express that no course of action of any kind is being advocated or indicated by any of the discourse running through this newsletter or its music lest someone accuse it of being something other than what it is, which is nihilistic. Fireaxe recognizes that the sense of self is inherently defined as extending beyond its natural boundaries and thus exists in a state of continuous conflict with its surroundings. Thus the goal of reaching a peaceful state of mind is impossible. In simpler terms, we are all unhappy, and in trying to be happy we spread the seeds of unhappiness.

"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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