The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 8.4

June 3, 2005

"It is not possible to manage something you cannot define."
- Alan Greenspan, referring to the money supply,
and in essence stating that he cannot do the job that
he was hired to do

"But out of control and it swallows us whole.
A ravenous abomination. A death machine."
- Fireaxe "Death Machine"

Many systems, political, economic, and religious, tend towards greater and greater complexity as they are required to do more and more things. Examples are ever-present: the EU's proposed constitution with hundreds of articles, the US's tax code with thousands of pages, and the Catholic church's endless reams of doctrine. All require experts to study them for years to try to fathom out what they mean, and even then experts often disagree. And to make things even more difficult, when such codes are enshrined into law they often have many problematic unintended consequences which force politicians, lawyers, and priests to add yet more rules in the hopes of fixing the system. Over time, complex systems grow beyond anyone's ability to understand them let alone control them, and yet those systems are the ones that control our lives. That's hardly a comforting thought.

Sitting at the top of each pile of doctrine we generally have a person or persons who we regard as the masters of the system. The Pope presides over the Catholic church, the Supreme Court presides over US law, and Alan Greenspan presides over the US dollar. Each wields great power over the system and speaks with great authority. We like to think that they can control the complex systems that we have entrusted to them, but in truth each system has a great degree of independence from its master. At the core of each system lies a mass of individuals each making independent decisions without necessarily considering the impact of their decisions on the rest of the system. If only one or two people show poor judgment, or proceed in a novel and potentially dangerous manner the system will usually manage just fine with few disruptions. If a larger number of people do the same, the system can become destabilized, but it can usually be brought back under control when the masters of the system create more laws, adjust certain factors, or add more doctrine to the holy texts. But if a large mass of people test the very limits of a system, the results can be catastrophic. It is at those times that the masters of the systems can only watch helplessly as the system collapses. Their control is not absolute.

Throughout history this has happened over and over. Each time we come up with a new set of fixes to correct the failures of past systems and everything seems to be working once more. However, years later the system inevitably fails once again, but this time in a new way that no one could have predicted or prevented. The pattern is cyclical in nature. After each major collapse, people behave conservatively for fear that another collapse will happen again. Slowly the new system inspires confidence, and caution is set aside in favor of risk and novelty. Stability gradually goes from being something that is cherished and protected to being something that is taken for granted. Eventually risk and excesses rule the day and the system is ripped from its stable moorings. Destabilization follows and there is no way back. Despite some often extreme attempts to save it, the system collapses, spreading chaos on destruction in its wake. Then the cycle begins anew.

I see the current cycle coming to a close. There are few who are still alive during the economic collapse of the 1930's and the world war that followed. Not many are left in power who have lived through that era and thus few truly understand that the stability that appears to permeate our financial and political systems could suddenly disappear and plunge the world into chaos. Many simply take it for granted that it could never happen again and that we're too smart to allow it to do so. I see a number of leaders taking great risks and using their power in ways that are destabilizing the current system. It appears like a global game of chicken, but there is a method to their madness of our leaders. If you push farther than the other guy, but don't go too far yourself, you win. But how far is too far? I think that we will find out soon enough.

Speaking of new and destabilizing ideas, "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess" is slowly coming to fruition. As my health is improving, the tracks are forming, and the recording process may be in full swing before the end of the year. Of course, if the global economy collapses this year or the next, all bets are off concerning a release date, but as long as there is life within my body, there will also exist the will to deliver the darkest Fireaxe CD of them all.

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

Fireaxe salutes Wikipedia and Perry Grayson

Only recently have I been made aware of Wikipedia, an internet based encyclopedia, and I have to say that I am impressed by what I've seen so far. Unlike other internet encyclopedias, Wikipedia is an open book, meaning that it allows anyone at all to add, update, or correct information for any given entry. This enables it to have hundreds if not thousands of authors, each experts in their own field, adding to a massive knowledge base which covers everything from history to science to pop culture. It also allows you to add external links to the pages so that it can connect the entire internet to its knowledge base. It's powerful and its scope is vast. Just search for "Where's the beef?" and you'll see what I mean.

I know what you're thinking, that having Wikipedia open so that anyone can make changes is dangerous or ill-advised. Anyone can vandalize or delete anything that someone else has contributed, or simply post a bunch of nonsense that sounds authoritative. But Wikipedia also stores the history of changes for every entry, so if you find a page that has been vandalized you can easily roll it back to the unblemished version. It's not a perfect system, but I am surprised how good it is. One day I decided to do a search for Fireaxe and discovered that there was no entry for my musical project. No problem. With just a few clicks and I added the entry along with a link to the Fireaxe home page and a brief description. If anyone of you wants to add your two cents to the Fireaxe entry go right ahead. Learning the form is pretty easy.

You can also search other entries just like any good search engine and when I searched for Fireaxe I stumbled upon a very good write-up of horror author Frank Belknap Long, one of H.P. Lovecraft's circle of fellow pulp sci-fi/horror authors. The Fireaxe song "Hounds of Tindalos" was close enough to Long's vision to merit a reference on the page. I quickly added a link where Fireaxe was mentioned and wondered who would have thought to include Fireaxe in the Frank Belknap Long entry.

Reading farther down the page I discovered that it was probably my friend and fellow metal musician/Lovecraft enthusiast Perry Grayson. He'd included a link to a biography that he'd written on Frank Belknap Long which was too long to be included in Wikipedia, but which fits in perfectly as an external link.

If you're a Lovecraft/horror enthusiast, give his article a read. And to Perry, if you were the one who wrote Fireaxe into the Frank Belknap Long entry, a big thank you to you. Wikipedia rocks.

Top of the Rock

If you don't have your health, you have nothing. Sure, it's a tired old clichť, but there will very likely be a time in your life where you realize that nothing is more true. Protect your health, preserve it, and when it tries to get away, fight as hard as you can to get it back. I know that from experience. I've written about my struggles with my health over the past three years: about how a malignant tumor nearly did me in and left me with only one kidney, and about how the sutures from that operation caused me a lot of pain and prevented me from fully healing the seven inch scar until I paid to have them removed. Now I have another chapter to add to the saga. I'd like it to be the last.

At the end of last year I had the sutures from my surgical scar removed, which solved the problems I was having there completely. Note that those were internal sutures. They held the muscles together, not the skin. After six months of healing I didn't need them anymore, but removing them would require another surgery, something that was rarely ever done. The sutures were meant to be permanent. The trouble was that the surgeon had sewn them in using an outdated technique. As a result the sutures dug in and caused sharp stabbing pains whenever I used my abdominal muscles. It was frustrating, and what was worse was that all the doctors and surgeons that I saw told me that the problem was due to scar tissue, not the sutures, and that my troubles would slowly go away over time. They were all wrong, completely wrong. But I still had to pay to have the sutures removed. My insurance wouldn't cover the procedure. The bastards. But anyway, I'm just glad that I could afford it. It needed to be done.

In the months that followed I found myself in a similar situation once more. My abdomen was fine, but my energy levels had dropped again. They'd been down ever since I first got cancer and had been drifting between low and very low ever since. Something was wrong with me but all the blood tests and scans showed nothing. My doctors had no idea what the problem was and told me that I would either get better with time, or suggested that I was depressed and needed something like Prozac to make me feel better. I would have been insulted by the idea that depression was causing my fatigue, but I know that doctors sometimes get kickbacks for prescribing popular drugs. My doctors simply had no other answers for me. So once again I went back to the internet to try to figure out what was wrong with me.

I began to wonder if I was going to have to actually become a doctor in order to find a cure. I was already taking over part of the job that my doctors and specialists were supposed to do. They could only give me fifteen minutes of their time every month and that is not enough time to look into something that doesn't immediately show up on the standard tests. As a result, "Do no harm" became "Do nothing". I was on my own. Like it or not, that is the direction that our health care system has gone in recent years. If you have something that modern medicine has identified, like cancer, you get prompt and powerful treatment. But if you have something that is unusual and difficult to diagnose, you might have to do a lot of the legwork yourself, especially if it is a chronic lack of energy. Most people will write you off as mentally ill, a malingerer, or a lazy slacker if you complain about being fatigued all the time.

None of those labels stick to me save for the "mentally ill" one (he he). And although I may be a number of things, depressed isn't one of them. Sure, I write depressing music and I may not have a positive outlook on the future and the world, but I have always had a strong drive to do my best with whatever hand I get dealt. I look at it very simply: there is no alternative, so always fight hard.

I'd taken up cycling back in the late 90s. That was when I moved out to California and noticed that there were all these bike lanes everywhere. That was a huge change from Michigan, where your only riding choices on city streets were an irregular sidewalk and a pothole-ridden gap between speeding pickup trucks and the curb. Once in California I broke out my old ten-speed and whipped myself back into shape. In time I fell in love with the sport and increased the distances that I would go on my rides. By mid-2001 I was able to ride over a hundred miles in a single day and did that on most weekends during the summer. It was great. In July I'd watch Lance ride live on TV in the Tour de France in the morning, and then cruise up into the hills for my own stage in the afternoon. Lots of Fireaxe tracks got written while I was out on those long rides, "The Citadel Must Fall" and "River of Madness" being two of them. During the summer of 2001 I rode long and I rode hard and I enjoyed every minute of it.

That was when cancer struck. No one knows how you get kidney cancer, but I suspect that it was because I was drinking the filthy California tap water and breathing filthy Saddleback Valley air on those long rides. The air is cleaner where I live now, but the tap water is even worse. The stuff tastes like jet fuel. I'm not kidding. I drink distilled water now exclusively and when I get a mouthful of southern California tap water I want to spit it out. It's disgusting.

But along with cancer, something else struck me that year and the next as I slowly lost my ability to ride long distances and then lost the ability to ride at all. My immune system was getting more and more taxed by the cancer and ended up seriously weakened. That's never a good thing because there are dormant infections in our bodies that are held in check by our immune systems. When our immune systems become weakened, those infections wake up and spread around, making you sick and lethargic, and some of them have adapted to have such survival mechanisms as triggering the hyper-coagulation of your blood. Hyper-coagulation is where your blood gets thicker and the walls of your capillaries end up coated with a layer of fibrous tissue. The infections then hide in that layer which protects them from your immune system. The layer even protects the infections from antibiotics and thus you relapse after taking courses of them. It's nasty shit and I had it bad. But as I said, none of it showed up on the standard tests my doctors performed. Of course, neither does cancer until it is just about to kill you. So I wasn't going to wait around and do nothing. I had to find out what was wrong with me.

Without the internet there would be no Fireaxe. And to be honest, without the internet there might be no Brian Voth anymore. I'm not sure if it has saved my life, but the internet has helped me improve my health on numerous occasions. This is another one of those. While searching for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome the following link came up.

It was written by Dr. Holtorf who came to realize that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was a very real and very devastating syndrome when he came down with it many years ago. I'm glad that he did, in a way, since he has figured out a cause and treatment for the syndrome. His ideas are new, and not yet accepted, but I was willing to try anything that was scientifically sound and his theory certainly is.

Of course, I don't believe without proof and neither does Dr. Holtorf's clinic. So we got proof. Independently performed blood tests showed that I was suffering from everything that his theory predicts: hyper-coagulation of the blood, no less than five chronic infections, high values of reverse T3 - a measure that escapes most thyroid doctors, and a weakened but highly active immune system. Dr. Holtorf has his shit together. The best proof of all has come recently after several months of treatment. My energy is coming back and I'm back on my bike.

I'm not all the way back. Maybe I'll get there. Dr. Holtorf doesn't guarantee 100% recovery. I think that's because once the infections get into your system you can never completely get rid of them. So you need some kind of continuing maintenance. It's also possible that Dr. Holtorf is holding back on the final piece of the cure so that he can rake in extra cash in treatment. I don't really know. But a few weeks ago I was feeling good and so I set my sights on a milestone that I've wanted to achieve ever since I had cancer surgery in March of 2003.

There's a climb sixteen miles east of where I live. The road goes up for more than seven miles and the grade averages about five and a half percent. It's not quite an Alpine climb, but it's long and nasty and takes about forty-five minutes to get to the top. Of course, Lance could do it in twenty-five, but most people can't even push a bike to the top let alone ride all the way up. It's hard. After cancer surgery I had started riding again and I had tried to get to the top of that climb. I got close twice, but never all the way. Then the Chronic Fatigue rose up and slowly shut down my ability to exercise. I had to stop trying and I wondered if I'd ever be able to get to the top of that hill again. I kept telling myself that I would. I imagined myself at the top, holding my bike over my head and shouting victoriously. Getting to the top was going to be a symbol of my victory over cancer. But as the fatigue grew and grew, I began to doubt if that would ever happen.

Dr. Holtorf's treatment turned my body into a war zone. I was taking a handful of pills every day. I was taking drugs to tear down the fibrin linings on my blood vessels, drugs to kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi, drugs to strengthen my immune system, and a whole gob of anti-oxidants and other pills to clean up the carnage. The infections took their toll, but after weeks of struggling I was able to exercise again without feeling like a basket case for days afterwards. So I began to get myself back into shape. My body was responding once again and slowly I was getting stronger. I took longer and longer rides and one day I felt strong enough to climb a mile up that steep hill to see if I could handle the strain. I could, and so I decided that the following week I would make another attempt at the ascent.

Perhaps I wasn't ready. Perhaps I was too ambitious. Pushing myself is one of my faults and it may have contributed to me getting cancer in the first place. Still I had to try. I loaded up with gear, carbs, and clean water and headed towards the big hill. It was more brutal than I remembered. That was because I wasn't in as good a shape as I had been years before. But I took things slow and kept telling myself that if I felt that I couldn't make it that I could try again next weekend. The sun was pounding and I was sweating profusely. By the time I got three-quarters of the way up there was no dry spot on my shirt to clean my glasses. I had to stop and rest and I wondered if I could finish the climb. I was tired, but I still felt like I could go farther. The last mile and a half of the climb was the hardest. The grade there is seven percent and it doesn't let up. I hadn't been past that point since I got cancer. But now I felt better, and so I went for it.

It was hot. I had to go slow. But my legs kept churning. I kept waiting for my body to give up and tell me to stop but it never did. I didn't want to give up but I was ready to if I felt that I had to. I kept going. I didn't need to get to the top that day, but somehow I did. Yes, I made it. I had returned to a place where I hadn't been for almost three years. It felt fantastic.

At first I was too tired to celebrate. I had to wait a few minutes before finally hoisting my bike aloft and screaming out my victory over cancer, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, the doctors who were wrong, and the many problems in our health care system. I finally felt like I had won. And as I came flying down out of the mountains at a modest 30+ miles per hour with the wind rushing past and my legs pushing me faster I began to remember who it was that I used to be. Victory at last.

Maybe this is a short-lived recovery. Maybe there's something else inside me that I'm going to have to battle in the near future. Maybe the next time I have to fight I'm not going to be able to win. But there is one thing that I know for sure, that I will always be fighting: fighting to stay alive, fighting to get what I want, and fighting to be who I am. And to be honest, I wouldn't have it any other way.

The Fireaxe theory - Outline

I. Basics - 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

II. Extensions

  • 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

III. 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

IV. 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

V. 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

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 (SOLD OUT)
A Dream of Death: $3 / $5 (booklet out of print)

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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