The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 6.6

Oct 3, 2003

"Your future is managed and your freedom's a joke.
You don't know the difference as you put on the yoke.
The less that you know the more you fall into place.
A cog in the wheel there is no soul in your face."
- Kansas, "Sparks of the Tempest"

Freedom a joke? Saying such a thing would get one shouted down by the thousands of radio, television, and book-writing right wing pundits whose rage seems never ending at those who dare to question the ideals of their beloved country. Even those in the left wing steadfastly defend the idea that America is one of the most free if not the pinnacle of free societies in the world today. Of course, both sides claim that our freedoms are under attack and that if the we do not act, and by act they mean support their political agendas, we will lose our freedoms, but to say freedom is a joke is heresy. There is little relief for those who dare to question something that which is held as a given. How often have we heard the usual list of freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and the many rights and guarantees which form the backbone of our free society? Doubters of the dogma of freedom are warned that they should be happy that they are in a free country, and that in other countries they would be jailed for saying such things. All these things are true and the doubters are silenced by veiled threats of what might happen if we did not support the system.

But the freedoms we have are useless if we can't get what we want. And how free is our free society when we have to work like slaves just to get what we need? Our most jealously guarded values have become trivial. Our free speech is drowned out by the corporate controlled media who push their agendas while pretending to be impartial. Our freedom of religion is merely window dressing about a central core of obedience to the state. Our rights can be obliterated by the media, the police, lawyers, politicians, and government agents when the situation suits those in power, so we are well advised to obey all the laws and social norms no matter what privacy we believe we have. The extent to which we can exercise our freedoms is usually no more than placing a smarmy bumper sticker on our car, having carefully worded discussions around the water cooler so that we don't offend anyone, or calling in to a radio or television program to vent and be dumped on. Perhaps what little we do does affect social policy in some way, but the dominant force in control the social order lies far from the ravings of the common man.

The corporate structure is devouring the world. For most of us, most if not all of our money comes from or goes to large corporations either directly, or through only one layer of indirection. Our survival is dependent on them and they know it. Corporations dominate markets, squashing all competitors either legal or illegally and abusing whatever political system is in place for their own gain. The death, torture, and enslavement that has been done in the name of corporate profits in third world countries are all too common with the victims being denied any legal recourse, leaving them vulnerable to extremist ideologies. Even in the first world, corporations do not follow the ideals of equality nor offer the same inalienable rights that the governments guarantee. As an employee you can be spied upon, both at work and at home, be discriminated against due to race, sex, religion, or any outstanding trait that offends your boss or owner, have your salary lowered or held below industry average based on claims of poor earnings while those controlling your company give themselves raises, bonuses, and sweet severance packages, have your retirement fund plundered by the owners of the company who can cover their tracks through mergers, restructuring, or dissolving their company, be fired for no reason other than to increase stock prices, have your intellectual property stripped from you when you leave your company and try to start your own business, be prevented from working for competitors for a time after being laid off, and be held to anything else your employer wrote into the contract you had to sign before you could begin to earn a living. The governments in free societies aren't allowed to act with such impunity, but corporations can and do. If a country decided to deport the lowest performing 2% of its population to a neighboring country it would be considered a gross human rights violation if not an act of war, but corporations do the equivalent with impunity. With each law passed by governments beholden to corporate special interests, human beings more and more resemble mere property, who are bought, sold, and controlled by corporations. All the tyranny that our forefathers fought against has come back in spades.

We are witnessing the onset of a new form of government, one that could be called "Corporate Warlordism". The ideals of those who founded our countries are becoming more distant and irrelevant as we struggle within the corporate dominated system to put food on our tables. Our unions are busted, our jobs are outsourced to other countries, our labor is devalued, and our wealth is redistributed to the rich, giving them more power to tighten the noose. Privatization and deregulation are the order of the day as all our community property is auctioned off. Necessities such as electricity, water, and basic services are turned into commodities for which we pay more and receive less. We work as hard as we can, looking over our shoulders all the time and seeing the cost cutter's axe poised at our necks. We are chained to the bottom line.

So what of freedom? We still have it. There is still a little play left in the chain.

I've been spending my freedom chained to my Macintosh, ardently churning out the artwork for the massive booklet for "Food for the Gods". That work is almost complete. I predict that another "Burning Blade" will not be written before the 3 CD project is finally completed. The wait is almost over and I am looking forward to the release as much as anyone. Will it all be worth the effort? Only time will tell.

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

A forty panel booklet

If you've been holding back about offering your artistic services, you're too late. As of this time, thirty-four of the forty panels for the booklet are complete. The rest will be done soon. The quality of the art is somewhere between what I wanted and what I expected, which I feel is very acceptable. If I had my way every page would have a full color, cover quality, artistic masterpiece upon which the lyrics would rest, but Michelangelo is dead and I wouldn't have been able to afford him anyway so I've settled for what I can get.

I know what you're thinking, "That's a lot of panels!". Yes, it is. I originally just wanted to do a simple 4 panel booklet (one page folded over = four 4-3/4" x 4-3/4" panels) with cover art and something for the inside panels similar to Lovecraftian Nightmares. But I received a number of unsolicited comments about how much they liked the booklet for "A Dream of Death" with all the lyrics and art and figured that "Food for the Gods" deserved the royal treatment. Of course, "A Dream of Death" required twelve panels and "Food for the Gods" is three times as long, so I knew that the booklet for the new project was going to end up being very thick. It was an ambitious undertaking, but so was the whole project, and the more I thought about it the more I liked the idea. A massive, colorful booklet it had to be.

I also had some grand ideas in mind about the backdrops for the song lyrics. For "A Dream of Death" I mainly cut and pasted parts of the cover and other Fireaxe images on some of the panels and used textures or simple graphics for the rest. I wanted more for "Food for the Gods". I imagined epic scenes depicting many of the epic tales on the CDs: ziggurats towering into the sky, chariots racing across the desert, a city laid to waste by rampaging worshippers of Kali; and I did my best to capture what I wanted. I'm not a professional artist, but you will undoubtedly enjoy what I have created. You may even want larger copies of some of the works without the words covering them up. I'll make those available, either as posters or as tiff images.

But the art does more than illustrate, it adds to the meaning of the songs. One work that I like more and more is the art for the song "The Soul Doctors". The song is about a person surrendering their will to a religious movement which demands conformity and control. The artwork depicts a kneeling man with the top of his head cut open and with his arms extended, holding his brain, and offering it up to an image of a burning heart. I think that the picture captures the idea of surrendering one's intellect to strong emotions perfectly. It compliments the song.

The booklet and the CD will go hand in hand in taking you on a journey through the history of gods, war, and ideological enslavement. You'll read the stones on which the first laws were carved, you'll look through the blood-stained glass windows of the Christian church, you'll look into the eyes of warriors in glorious victory and crushing defeat, and you'll behold the gates of heaven thrown open by the fires of hell. Your coolness meter will read off the scale. The mega-booklet is awesome.

Corporate Warlordism and the RIAA

As long as the debate over the issue of internet piracy of music is reduced to one simple issue: "Is downloading copyrighted songs illegal?", everything will go the RIAA's way. The fact that it is illegal is the only reason why no one should ever download copyrighted music off the internet. Getting caught is very expensive. The major labels have bent judges to their will and effectively bribed elected officials to pass draconian copyright protection laws and now they are able to sue any one of millions of people for the heinous crime of using their PC as a combo radio and tape deck unit. In court there is no contest. The judges and juries have been primed by a media blitz to pass down guilty verdicts and harsh financial penalties to anyone caught breaking the law. Of course, the major labels, not the artists, will get all the money from those lawsuits, and the major labels will continue to abuse their artists with one-sided contracts and undelivered promises. Justice simply does not get served. Welcome to the new age of corporate warlordism.

This is the truth: the internet scares the major labels. For decades the corporations which control the music industry have worked hard to dominate the production and distribution of CDs as well as control the media outlets which decide which songs are to be played. This is how they've made billions of dollars. Now the internet can do all of those things far better and cheaper than they can. With the advent of the mp3 digital format and the rise in popularity of high speed internet connections the home listener no longer needs to wait for hours to hear the songs he wants to hear on the radio, or buy a CD full of songs that he doesn't want to hear just to get the one or two he does, or deal with having huge stacks of once listened to CDs cluttering up their homes. Now anyone with internet access can log in, select the songs he wants to hear, store them, play them as many times as he wants, delete them if he doesn't like them or put them in a special player to listen to anywhere he goes, and not only tell all his friends how cool some new band is, but send them each a link so that they can hear the band for themselves. This is far better than anything that has come before it. It is a true music revolution as significant as the invention of the phonograph. If left unregulated, music on the internet would obliterate profit margins for labels, radio stations, and CD retailers as well as send major ripples through all of the music related industries. You could download the MP3s for free, buy the CDs of the stuff you wanted at 44.1kHz quality directly from the band through the internet, and listen to new bands in a user driven interactive environment. Consumers would benefit immensely. Isn't that the whole point of capitalism? In theory, yes. In today's world, no.

Of course, if the internet was left unregulated, less music would probably be produced. Let's assume that industry is at least partially right and that consumers would buy less music when they can download mp3 samples for free. This is not a given. The RIAA has yet to show lagging sales for CDs that cannot be accounted for by the current economic slowdown, their decision to no longer release singles, and their focus on high profile artists. Their own numbers show a massive surge after mp3s became popular to trade online, tailing off only after the Napster and lawsuits. But perhaps sales would eventually fall to some degree as a result of internet piracy. With less money being spent on music there would be less incentive for bands to record CDs. But since most of the money spent on CDs today goes to people other than those who created the music, the elimination of the middle men would not likely have a dramatic effect on the number of bands making music. People will still want to go to concerts and worship their rock star idols, and musicians will still want to play, party, and get laid with shocking frequency. There is high demand for music and people are willing to pay for it. Rest assured that new systems will arise to meet these demands if the major labels crumble. And to be sure, getting rid of the musicians who are only in it for a chance at superstardom would be a good thing, so why are we letting the recording industry scare us? Getting rid of the middle men might bring about a sorely needed purification of popular music. The trouble is that the middle men are going to put up a fight rather than be rendered useless by modern technology, and when those middle men have billions of dollars to spend and numerous hooks into media news outlets that they can use to push their agenda, they will prove difficult, if not impossible, to beat.

The RIAA represents corporate warlords. These warlords make it standard policy to own everything that has anything to do with the bands they sign from their music to their name to their image and to their fame itself. The corporate ownership of a band is so complete that a member of a signed act cannot legally make a copy of a CD he has recorded with the label and give it to a friend or family member. Add to that the sometimes godlike power a band's label has over the band's gigs, songs, members, and sound and the band members are little more than puppets singing and playing at the end of corporate strings. But given the drugs, sex, fame, and sometimes good money that comes with being a signed act, most musicians couldn't care less. Being on tour beats working at Guitar Center any day of the week. The fact that there is a seemingly endless supply of talented musicians ready to sell out when a contract is waived in front of them destroys any bargaining power an up and coming band has to cut a fair deal. The major labels hold all the cards.

The corporate warlords try to achieve a stranglehold on the markets so that their acts get the most radio and television play. This exposure translates directly into sales. If your acts get the most play, your acts sell the most CDs. Now the internet gave bands even more exposure and as a result sales for all artists surged even as downloading increased. All the labels were making even more money from all the free advertising. However, since the average user could choose which songs to download, there was no possible way for the major labels to dominate the internet market. Small labels could compete on near equal terms with the major labels and this was causing a major shift in consumer's buying habits away from the multi-platinum rock stars and towards the formerly more obscure artists. As the economy went south, the major labels were hit harder than their smaller competitors and so RIAA decided to shore up their sagging profits by suing anyone with money. Both Napster and were successfully sued for hundreds of millions of dollars, but allowing the internet to exist as a gigantic CD listening bar was still killing sales for the major labels, thus the RIAA led the push to crush downloading once and for all.

It is likely that the RIAA's strategy is backfiring to some degree. Some consumers and bands are intentionally boycotting the major labels to protest their war on downloading, but the media continues to demonize the average downloader as someone who "steals" songs instead of buying them and who is putting the bands he enjoys out of business. In doing so the media trivializes the important issues concerning the future of music and the internet and makes the average consumer agree with the RIAA. In the meantime, the major labels charge us more, give us less, and tighten their grips on the bands we love, the songs we hear, and the way we think about music.

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

Iíve been focusing so hard on "Food for the Gods" that Iíve had little time to think about what Iíd like to record next. Over the past few months Iíve tossed around some ideas and have come up with a working title and theme. The next Fireaxe work will dig even deeper into the dark crevices of our society and our minds, pull forth the myths that we cling to and hold dear, and expose them all for what they are. While "A Dream of Death" explored the madness of dreams, and "Food for the Gods" described the chaos wrought upon the earth by ideologies, "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess" will depict the psychological enslavement of the individual in modern times. It will be the darkest Fireaxe work ever. But donít put your order in just yet. After wrapping up "Food for the Gods" Iíll need a while to rest and upgrade my studio. Iím spent.

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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