The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 7.5

July 30, 2004

"When you reach your limit and fall to the ground and
all demand that you rise and push yourself over the edge,
then you shall know that you are enslaved to a voracious god."
- Fireaxe, "Malediction"

Americans are fat and getting fatter. This is obviously true in the physical sense, with our ever-expanding collective girth, but even more so in the symbolic sense. Americans consume almost everything at an alarming rate from food to oil to manufactured goods to the environment and our appetites only continue to grow. Instead of conserving oil reserves, we buy monstrous SUVs and then manipulate and conquer nations which can supply our excessive needs. Instead of living within our means we spend like there's no tomorrow and plunge ourselves and our governments deeply into debt. And instead of eating healthy diets and exercising to lose weight we choose a diet that lets us eat as much meat and cheese as we want without getting fat. Yes, there's nothing more American than the Atkins diet which allows us to gorge ourselves at every meal without suffering any apparent ill consequences.

Such voraciousness is surely a sign of a pathological condition, but such things are only problems when they prevent someone from being functional within a social order. In the case of over-consumption, the pathological condition not only allows someone to be functional, but actually helps them to excel. Over-consumption is a survival advantage.

In nature we see this in the way some species can store excess food internally as fat or externally in honeycombs and food stores. It is always better to have a cushion to fall back on and evolution has favored those species which get more than they need and which get it before they need it. Humans are physically the same way and will naturally get fat if left to eat and exercise as much as they desire. Psychologically we also over-consume to satisfy our needs and desires, and we build up great wealth and achieve difficult things to support our self-images, and often at the expense of others. The same principle applies to ideologies, and thus we see nations striving to become more prosperous than their neighbors, since by consuming more than they need they further their prosperity while depriving their neighbors of it. Over-consumption improves your chances of survival, at least to a degree.

In the natural realm there is an equilibrium condition which prevents over-consumption from running out of control. If you become too fat you become unable to compete for food until starvation makes you thinner. Similarly, excess food stores don't last forever, so there is a limit on how much it is practical to save. In terms of human societies however, there is no such equilibrium condition, or at least one hasn't been encountered yet. If there is a will, then technological or ideological innovation will find a way, and so the hunger always ends up getting fed. Even more dangerous is the fact that over-consumption makes you better able to consume even more, preventing equilibrium. Having excess money makes you better able to make more money and having more advanced technology makes you better at acquiring things from others both militarily and economically. But over-consumption often leads to extremism in the need to feed the hunger, and thus innovations such as encouraging suicide bombings and threatening the entire world with nuclear war become necessary tools for achieving pathological ends.

Of course, it's easy to point at the fattest nation and accuse it of being incapable of self control, but other nations are left with no alternative but to compete against over-consumption by adopting the same strategy. When you ease off you lose ground, either to those above you trying to shove you down, or to those below you eager to take your place. And so, Ideologies must fan the flames of discontentment in its members to keep their desire for more as strong as possible, which in turn helps the ideology to survive and thrive. Mole hills are made into mountains, small slights are turned into grave insults, and all tragedies are milked to the furthest extent in order to make us hungry for justice. And so we feed.

Fireaxe is trying to grow too. I must confess that I am driven by the desire to be heard and I work awfully hard to fulfill it. I know that many of you feel the same way and so I'm going to share a list of Metal Webzines that offer to review demos from unsigned bands. Sure, I am burning resources to push my music, but being small I can always portray myself as defending myself against the onslaught of the Major Labels who seek to crush music outside their realm. I can get away with it since desires of the underdog are seen as uplifting and spirited, as opposed to the ones of those in power who are seen as greedy and oppressive. So that's what I do, I enjoy doing it, and I enjoy helping you do the same.

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

Metal Webzines which support the underground

Requests for "Food for the Gods" were starting to slow down and so I've become more aggressive about promoting myself. I don't like promoting myself. I'm a modest person and so it's embarrassing to "talk up" my music. I'd rather have others spread the word for me. I know that "these guys really rock" sounds a whole lot better than "my band really rocks". Who are you more likely to believe?

Also, I'd rather have Fireaxe spread "laterally", by word of mouth rather than submitting it to someone whose judgment is, at least to some extent, influenced by financial considerations. And I'm not fond of crossing my fingers while others write reviews of my work or decide whether it should be played on their radio station. Of these two options, radio play is best, since others will actually hear my music and can decided for themselves if they like it. Reviews are always hit and miss with some leaving me scratching my head and wondering if I sent them the right CD. But the worst part of trying to do it all on my own is the notion that potential listeners see the words "demo", "unsigned", or "underground", and pass on Fireaxe, figuring that if I'm really good that I will eventually be signed to a label. That's not what I'm after. And so the struggle continues.

In any event, I went on-line and found a large number if webzines that catered to metal music and which did demo reviews. I've sent off quite a number of copies of "Victory or Death" and I'm awaiting the results. About half of the webzines are located outside the US, so thanks to the internet, I can find an audience for music which is considered, for the most part, dead where I'm from. Here is a list of webzines that do demo reviews. If you know of one or two more, send me their URLs.

666 Metal

Battle Helm Magazine

Blistering Entertainment

Directory of Dirge

Hell Spawn

HMAS

Maelstrom Zine

Maximum Metal

Melodic Hard Rock

Metal Coven

Metal Covenant

Metal Eagle

Metal Gospel

Metal Hammer

Metal Hordes

Metal Judgment

Metal to Infinity

Metal U.K.

Mettle Psychosurgery

The Plague

RockRage, Inc.

Tartarean Desire

UNRESTRAINED!

The Fireaxe theory

Over the years I've written a whole lot of things about gods, ideologies, and how individuals fit into the big picture in many columns as part of this newsletter. I've also written many songs which deal with those issues although musically I approaching them in a more emotional way rather then the structured approach I use when writing. If you've read everything in the Burning Blade, the Consciousness essay on my site, and listened to all the Fireaxe CDs then you might have a pretty good idea of how everything fits together, but nothing beats a simple and concise review of what I call the "Fireaxe theory". So in this issue I've decided to present the basic structure of the Fireaxe theory so that it is easier to grasp and understand.

Before I begin I would like to denounce terms such as "worldview", "philosophy", and "perspective" when used to describe the Fireaxe theory and other theories which attempt to explain how the world works. I think that recently there has been a well meaning movement towards tolerance of all beliefs which is part of a larger movement towards ridding the world of bigotry and discrimination. The basic premise of this movement is that it is wrong to believe that you are right, which, when put in those terms, immediately reveals a paradox. Indeed, universal tolerance is simply another ideal which is intent on asserting its authority on everyone.

There is substantial agreement in several quarters that the clashes of ideologies is the root of most if not all problems on earth and much of the music that I write follows that theme. Humanists and atheists often point to religion as being a major world problem since believers have often resorted to violence and brutality to force their order on the world. Religious believers point out that "atheistic" regimes have even worse records when it comes to atrocities and they are correct for the most part, religion can't assume all of the blame. Since I use "ideology" to refer to all forms of government, whether religious or secular in nature, I avoid this counter-argument in the Fireaxe theory. But I think that there is a tempting urge, once one determines that the problem lies with the fact that differing religions or ideologies are constantly trying to convert or conquer the others, that you can solve this problem by eliminating all religions and ideologies. In essence this demands, to be paradoxical once more, that we become intolerant when it comes to intolerance. To determine that the root cause of the problem of ideological conflict is due to ideologies themselves is, in my view, to stop well short of the true cause, and ensures that any attempt to fix things, especially when taking extreme measures, will result in failure and the problem will manifest again even worse than before. In "Food for the Gods" I underline this theme many times, showing how past attempts to purify the world of the things which are viewed as causing problems have caused more problems than they solved.

And so, I bristle at terms like worldview, philosophy, and perspective to describe the theory that I am putting forth. The terms carry with them the fundamental belief of universal tolerance which is that we all have our own opinions about how the world works and that they are all equally valid. While I agree that nobody's theory should be shouted down or simply dismissed by those in power or by those who are simply louder, the idea that there is no test of validity stands in stark contrast to the universe itself. Like it or not, the universe is autocratic, and discovering the truth is a survival advantage. The source of the confusion on the part of those who favor universal tolerance appears to stem from the belief that non-falsifiable theories are potentially valid. It is correct to say that no non-falsifiable theory is any more correct than any other non-falsifiable theory, since one absurd belief is as useless as another in regards to understanding the universe and predicting the future, but sweeping up falsifiable theories into the vortex of competing belief systems is simply denying that the truth both exists and can be discovered. Those who do so are almost definitely pushing their own agenda and do not deserve your attention. And so, since my understanding of the universe is falsifiable, the correct label for it is a theory.

Now that I have clarified that, here are the basic parts of the Fireaxe theory.

I base the Fireaxe theory on several well established theories:

  • 1. Emergent systems - that complex systems can arise from the interactions of simple things
  • 2. Natural selection - that organisms mutate, proliferate, and compete, with the "losers" becoming extinct
  • 3. Behavioral science - that neurological systems, at their core, function according to the rules of conditioning
  • 4. Entropy - that within a closed system, entropy always increases, which limits the amount of transformation that can occur

I extend those theories as follows:

  • 1. That consciousness is an emergent system: a complex system arising in the human mind from the interaction of simple neurons.
  • 2. That civilizations are emergent systems arising from the physical interactions of humans whether conscious or not.
  • 3. That ideologies are emergent systems arising from the psychological interactions of conscious humans
  • 4. That emergent systems follow the laws of natural selection in much the same way that organisms do
  • 5. That the universe is, by definition, a closed system

So far this is all fairly straight forward. The only thing that I think needs to be clarified is how consciousness arises and how it gives rise to ideologies. I've dealt with these issues in more depth elsewhere and will only cover them briefly here.

Consciousness is the ability for a human to internalize a model of the world which includes itself which gives it the capacity for self awareness among other things. This requires the capacity for symbols, like words, which simplify a complex entity into a single object so that it can be easily manipulated in an internal model. Human are exceptional among all organisms in their mental capacity for learning symbols and languages which is one reason why humans are unique in being conscious. The other reason is that the human brain can become lateralized, which is when the hemispheres specialize for certain tasks instead of remaining essentially symmetrical. One half, usually the left, specializes in linear or sequential thinking, which is good for linking chains of cause and effect, while the other, usually the right, specializes in pattern recognition, which is good for finding shapes or trends in a larger whole. In all other organisms, lateralization is not seen. The phenomenon is specific to humans. Also, there are experiments which suggest that the linear thinking half of the brain, usually the left, houses consciousness. This is to be expected since manipulating symbols in an internal model of the world is inherently an exercise in cause and effect. Thus, the internal model, and the representation of one's self in that model, reside in the left brain with the right brain providing assistance for the modeling process. Of course, this does not preclude other neurological configurations which produce consciousness, since the basic concept is that different parts of the brain end up specializing in different things, which allows for linear thinking and thus the creation of an internalized model which includes the self.

A civilization as described as an emergent system arising from the physical interactions of humans does not differentiate it from, say, an ant colony with the exception being that humans are more complex. But even humans, without consciousness, are limited in the complexity of their behaviors. Without a well developed sense of cause and effect as well as the absence of an internalized model of the world with one's self included, it is difficult to engage in any long term planning. And without consciousness, things that we take for granted, such as finding novel solutions to problems or inventing complicated new things, are either difficult or impossible. But while consciousness gives rise to advanced planning, the use of symbols required for consciousness also allows for abstract thinking. Symbols generally represent concrete things, but they can be used to represent anything. Words can be nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc., and when combined they can evoke images of things which do not exist, that is, which are purely ideas, such as "invisible man", "blue elephant", or "eternal salvation". But just like concrete symbols, abstract symbols are stored in the mind and a person can come to see them as being just as "real" as real things through conditioning. Just as "farming" is rewarded by thankful family members, so is showing obedience to "God" rewarded by thankful priests, and a person being conditioned in this way will come to respect and serve both symbols.

Abstract concepts are the basis of ideologies, which I define as a system of laws which govern behavior in order to achieve some ideal. An abstract concept, be it a god, or goals such as freedom, equality, and prosperity, is the ultimate justification for those laws. In traditional religions, laws are generally handed down by a god or gods to its people and presented in story form as lessons. Modern religions and ideologies focus more on terms which are less easy to define to support their laws, such as "freedom", which often comes to be thought of as freedom from the oppression of a former or rival ideology. Of course, all ideologies contain laws intended to prevent the failed ideologies of the past from rising up once again, but since the more modern ones must prevent a larger number of ideologies from rising up, the ideals of modern ideologies must necessarily become more and more abstract. The more abstract an ideal is, the more inclusive it can be made.

In summary, consciousness is dependent on language, which causes the brain hemispheres to specialize. Language also paves the way for abstract concepts upon which ideologies are formed.

Given the theories and extensions listed previously, I make the following contentions regarding consciousness:

  • 1. That consciousness is a survival advantage
  • 2. That being a member of an ideology is a survival advantage
  • 3. That making its members conscious is a necessary part of an ideology's survival
  • 4. That consciousness is created by instilling within a person a permanent sense of inadequacy - in essence a state of constant fear
  • 5. That the deeper the sense of inadequacy, the stronger the person is motivated - generally to serve their ideology

The most controversial of these contentions is the fourth one, that consciousness is created by instilling within a person a permanent sense of inadequacy. I will go into the subject briefly here.

Consciousness is dependent on language which is required to build an internal model of the world with the self included, but there must also be a need for that model. If consciousness was simply a useful problem-solving tool, one would expect it to arise only when needed and then disappear once the problem is solved. However, the persistent character of consciousness suggests that a conscious person is in a state where an internal model is constantly needed, such as a permanent state of fear or need. That the self is at the center of the internal model suggests a personal connection to a permanent state of vigilance. In other words, we are conscious because we believe that we constantly need an internal model of the world to protect ourselves and achieve our needs, even though our actual fears and needs may not require constant vigilance. Thus, consciousness is the manifestation of a pathological condition, a permanent state of fear or deprivation which forces it to persist.

Ideologies contain fear imagery at their core and demand constant obedience. In Christian mythology, eternal damnation awaits those who sin, and in some variants, original sin focuses on making the believer feel hopelessly inadequate no matter what they do. A famous quote from one of the United States' founders, "the price of freedom is eternal vigilance", warns its people that complacency will result in tyranny and oppression taking root. By spreading such ideas, ideologies reinforce and strengthen the constant state of fear which motivates the individual to support the state. But the state does not raise children, and so the task of instilling consciousness in the young is done by well meaning parents who use punishments and withheld rewards to motivate their children, reinforcing feelings of inadequacy and fear if they do not do what they are told. Of course, everyone who is conscious does not feel constantly inadequate or afraid, but this is because we have adopted behaviors which prevent those feelings from surfacing. When you learn to obey the fear only seems to goes away, but in reality it is a permanent part of your psyche. And just as fear keeps you from breaking the law it keeps your consciousness from going away. Everyone must live up to social standards, which demand consciousness among many other learned behaviors, and so ideologies contain many seemingly odd behaviors and rituals which exist for the purpose that they instill and deepen feelings of fear and inadequacy. Public humiliation of the disobedient or unusual is one of these rituals, but there are many others. Simply look around you and you will find them.

People who are constantly afraid or constantly in need are motivated to find ways to satisfy their needs and make their fears go away. There are many ways in which ideologies exploit this motivation to serve their own ends. I've described these at length elsewhere and you can probably think of many of your own.

I also make the following contentions regarding ideological struggle:

  • 1. That ideologies fight for survival using many methods including, but not limited to, war and enslavement
  • 2. That aggression is a survival advantage
  • 3. That aggressive ideologies make members of rival ideologies feel afraid and inadequate which in response become more aggressive, thus creating a vicious circle
  • 4. That aggressive ideologies must continue to grow or face internal strife as their aggressive members will feed on each other to satisfy their needs
  • 5. That internal struggle results in ideological mutation

I think that aggression as a survival advantage is obvious, but it is not the only survival option. There are many examples of ideological societies which have gone unchanged for hundreds if not thousands of years. These could be dubbed as passive ideologies. Although ideologies spread fear and inadequacy among its members, it can also satisfy those feelings, and all is well as long as everything works. It's when the social order breaks down for some reason, such as after a series of natural disasters, or a military invasion, or internal changes caused by aggressive individuals, that feelings of fear and inadequacy cause the ideology to become aggressive or provoke an ideological mutation. Most ideological mutations, of which revolution is the most dangerous form, generally lead to the new ideology being very aggressive and can often cause chain reactions in other ideologies.

The idea of aggression creating a vicious circle is the most uncomfortable part of this theory in that human beings seem to be pawns in a game controlled by ideologies. It's conceivable that every ideology on the earth could become passive for one reason or another and stop the cycle of ideological conflict, but it appears that the trend is towards more aggression rather than less. Also, passive ideologies could simply be those in which the aggressions of its members are discharged against each other, resulting in a fragile equilibrium which is susceptible to mutation. There is also the problem that a growing population tends to cause conflicts over limited resources, and since all organisms seek to multiply, people will end up deprived one way or another. I personally don't feel that a permanent passive ideology can ever develop. I think that the vicious circle cannot be reversed and that aggression will continue to grow since attempts to stop the vicious circle are inherently aggressive and have only fed the flames.

It is at this point where the Fireaxe theory suggests that the root cause of ideological conflict is the capacity of the human brain. The increase in size and complexity allows for language, which allows for consciousness, which allows for ideologies, which follow the law of natural selection. Natural selection of organisms occurs slowly since it requires genetic mutation, but natural selection of ideologies can occur rapidly since it requires only behavioral changes in humans. These changes are occurring with increasing frequency along with a growth in consumption as a result. All these changes lead to an increase in the need for ideologies to motivate their members to deal with the new realities, which means that more fear and inadequacy must be instilled in them, which makes the world and everyone in it progressively more pathological. Furthermore, at every level there is no counterbalancing force to prevent continued escalation.

The following are my contentions regarding the future:

  • 1. That internal strife is inevitable since the laws of entropy imply that continuous growth is not sustainable
  • 2. That the abstract bases for ideologies transcend mortality and thus suicidal aggression is not restrained by fear of death
  • 3. That ideological mutation will eventually result in the creation of a suicidal ideology which will attempt to save the human race by destroying it

And that is the Fireaxe theory.

How to order Fireaxe CDs

Ordering Fireaxe CD's is an informal process as I am selling them personally out of my apartment. Simply mail me a letter which contains the following:

  • 1. The names of the CDs that you want to buy.
  • 2. The address where you want the CDs sent.
  • 3. Cash, a check, or a money order for the total cost.

Here is a price list. The first number is the cost for U.S. based customers, the second is for outside the U.S. The prices include shipping and handling.

Food for the Gods: $12 / $14
Victory or Death: $5 / $7
Lovecraftian Nightmares: $5 / $7
A Dream of Death: $5 / $7

Send everything to:

Brian Voth
1301 Medical Center Dr. #415
Chula Vista, CA, 91911 USA

If you review CDs on a website or in a magazine, any one of the single CDs (Not "Food for the Gods") is free of charge in exchange for the review. In this case all I need is a request by e-mail. Please send me the URL of your review site or copy of your magazine with the review in it when it is done. 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 CDs come with a booklet filled with awesome art, a letter about the project, and some information about the CD which can also be found on the Fireaxe site.

Lastly, if you want to print and distribute Fireaxe CDs I can send you an additional CD which contains tiff files for all the booklets, tray cards, and labels for each project. The tiff disk is free so just say the word.

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 food for the gods.
  • 6. 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?
  • 7. 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.
  • 8. You are free to play "The Rack" in school or church or any other institution bent on crushing your will and turning you into a mindless zombie slave of the corporate dominated world. Try not to develop a bad attitude about it.
  • 9. 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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