The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 8.5

July 29, 2005

"Glaucus, you know how you and I have the best of everything
in Lycia - seats, cuts of meat, full cups, everybody looking at us
as if we were gods? Well, now we have to take our stand at the
front, where all the best fight, and face the heat of battle, so that
many an armored Lycian will say, 'So they're not inglorious after
all, our Lycian lords who eat fat sheep and drink the sweetest wine.
No, they're strong, and fight with our best'."
- Sarpedon, "The Iliad", voicing sentiments that
you and I will likely never hear in our lifetimes.

Merit. A concept that forms the foundation of all social orders. A concept that has all but lost its grip on our modern world. Examples of the disconnect are ubiquitous. Consider that those who benefit the most from freedom and democracy are those who never have to put themselves or their children in harm's way defending those concepts. Those tasks are generally left to the poor. And when it comes to the most difficult and strenuous labor, that kind of work is rewarded the least, while those who are wealthy can live off the dividends of their investments, never having to work a day in their lives.

How can it be that those who risk the most and work the hardest come away from the table with so little to show for their efforts? Why does anyone support such a grossly unjust system? In the Iliad, Sarpedon sees that the morale of his soldiers will suffer greatly if he does not lead by example and earn the high stature that his servants work hard to support. In modern times few bother questioning their leaders' laxity when it comes to rolling up their sleeves and getting down to business. Of course, it can be argued that things were always this way, with leaders like Sarpedon, a fictional character, being a rarity. We can certainly find all kinds of leaders in our modern world, some who work hard and some who only reap the benefits of leadership. I can't draw any conclusions about then versus now, but I feel the need to point out how a merit-less system has a deleterious effect on motivation and undermines the social order.

Americans work hard, but working hard isn't rewarded like it used to be. Corporate leaders are rewarded with increasing stock prices when they outsource and downsize, and the severance packages that some executives receive when they are fired removes the downside of running their companies into the ground. For the rest of us, working your way up the corporate ladder is likely to make you a target for layoffs due to your relatively high salary. You might find yourself training your younger, cheaper replacement as many laid-off people have. And minimum wage has been stagnant for years, devoid of even a small increase to keep up with inflation, which pushes many hard workers into poverty and debt. Furthermore, the flood of illegal workers into the United States drives the wages of many off-the-books jobs below the meager minimum. Unions are under attack and must concede benefit after benefit as the bottom drops out of the working class. The story is as distressing as it is well documented.

Money is being made, but not so much from hard work as from getting lucky. All forms of gambling are thriving, from online casinos to playing the lottery to stock and asset price speculation. When we toil under the sun for hours just to break even and we see others getting rich fast with minimal effort the temptation to play the market is strong. We want our share. It's only fair. But what used to be called investment is now just pure speculation. Stocks, bonds, currency, etc., are all traded in pursuit of short term profits rather than invested for long term growth. Some win big while some lose their shirts. It's quite the game. And when people earn more money just by owning a house in California than they do working their job, the connection between hard work and rewards ends up getting completely shattered.

I can't blame people for abandoning the illusion of a system based on merit, especially young people who graduate full of expectations and end up full of bitterness as they find so many doors closed to them. And I can't blame people for playing the markets when their job opportunities are fitful, temporary, and unfulfilling. In today's environment, everything is a gamble, so why not just go ahead and gamble everything you have? Eat, drink, and borrow like a madman for tomorrow you might get laid-off, blown up, or discover that you have a massive malignant tumor inside your body that's going to kill you. When hard work no longer brings reliable rewards, the downside of risk is diminished, and speculation becomes the new norm.

The reduction of merit as a system of reward is having a highly corrosive effect on our society, as one might expect. Of course, our social ills are often blamed on our collective turning away from religion, but the true culprit in our ethical and moral decay is monetary policy, specifically the inflationary policies which have destabilized pricing mechanisms and created instability in virtually every market. That's a fancy way of saying that loose money makes for loose morals. People bend or break the rules for the promise of great rewards. Some take huge risks, lose big, and end up desperate enough to do anything for money. And some who have little to begin with or have to borrow to get started are simply left with no alternative but to do whatever it takes to get what they want and need. When fiscal order breaks down, everything else follows. Slowly but surely the core of the system is rotted out and eventually it implodes. It's not a matter of if, but when.

It's also not a matter of if the new Fireaxe CD will be released, but when the writing and recording will be completed. Another piece has been added to the unholy offering that will one day be "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess". I look forward to the day that I finish this work for many reasons, but I'm not going to rush it. The system of hard work and rewards still holds in the Fireaxe studio and I am determined to release the best CD that I can.

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

The Future of "A Dream of Death"

The first 100 copies of "A Dream of Death" sold out this year and I faced a dilemma about what I should do about supplying the CD to those out there who want the full Fireaxe collection. Burning the disks and printing out the labels isn't a difficult task, but cranking out more booklets is a somewhat painful process. I gave it a good try but I wasn't able to get the same quality as in the past, and so I decided to release the CD with a one page insert instead of the booklet. I cut the price down accordingly and now release "A Dream of Death" in a slimline jewel case. I'm not completely comfortable with this arrangement since I'd prefer to deliver something on par with the original release. But to be honest, I'm not sure what to do.

When I think about it more deeply, there are a lot of things that I'd like to change about the first Fireaxe CD. I originally recorded it when my home studio was in a rather primitive state. I'd just bought my Yamaha MT8X-II multi-track machine along with a real bass guitar, both of which helped out immensely, but every other part of the recording process underwent few changes from the days of the "Unholy Rapture" demo tape. When I listen to it now I am struck by how harsh the recording quality is, being used to the smoother production on "Food for the Gods", and often become my own worst critic. I cringe when I hear the single-tracked drums of the Roland TR-505 with its dull thudding samples and but a single cymbal crash sound. The guitar sound is too thin and can be completely lifeless on some speakers. My voice hadn't matured at that point and sounded very amateur, especially when I missed notes. And the vocals are made worse by the fact that I was holding the microphone as I sang. The result is far from ideal.

So whenever I listen to "A Dream of Death", or anything from my early days for that matter, for the first ten minutes or so I almost suffer through it, wishing that I could go back and re-record everything with all my new gear. I've been tempted to do just that many times. One big reason why I haven't is that I know that it would take a lot more time to re-record them than I think it would. I remember when I re-recorded "Lovecraftian Nightmares" (which was originally a demo tape with only 8 songs) and thought that I could knock out each song in only a week or two and have the whole thing done in half a year. But recording difficulties and other unforeseen problems dragged it out for more than a year. I'm don't want a repeat of that and I don't want to postpone the release of "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess" by a year or more just to re-release a CD with the same music on it that you've all heard before. But after the new CD is done, I wonder if it would be worthwhile to give birth to a new "Dream".

However, as I listen to that old CD, imaging how it would sound if the guitars were thick and juicy and jumped out of the speakers, if the drums were crashing all around the listener, and if the vocals were sharp, clean, and precise, my ears begin to adjust to that old sound and I start to feel the music, rough edges and all. After about fifteen minutes or so I don't mind the sound quality so much and I start to realize that the rough sound actually enhances the listening experience. "A Dream of Death" centers around one man's desperate struggle against a harsh and unforgiving world. The main character is trying as hard as he can to deliver his message despite the many obstacles placed in his way. This struggle is mirrored in the feel of the recording, which was one man's desperate struggle to deliver a message despite numerous limitations. When I over-reach while singing it often underlines the desperate feel of the subject matter. And since the recording quality is often harsh and unforgiving, that can add to the overall feeling as well. Of course, I didn't deliberately create a harsh and desperate sound in order to set the mood. I was trying as hard as I could to produce something that sounded as good as anything else on the market. But looking back on it, it seems that the drawbacks do enhance the music.

And so I end up on the fence about whether or not I should invest the time and energy into re-recording something that I've already done before. On the one hand, I know that I can produce a version of "A Dream of Death" that sounds as good or better than "Food for the Gods". And I know that a number of people who've received "A Dream of Death" have been disappointed by the production quality and I don't want them to feel as if they've wasted their money. On the other hand, I fear that recording the CD in a way that makes it cleaner, brighter, and fuller, may actually detract from the work and stray too far from the original character of the music. I know that at least one person who compared the original "Lovecraftian Nightmares" tape to the re-recorded CD was taken aback by the slick recording and packaging of the newer release. It was a bummer to read that review. I don't want to put so much effort into something that falls short of the original.

So I'm asking for your opinions on this issue. I have a number of options as to what to do with "A Dream of Death". One is to leave it as is and keep selling copies of it, either with a booklet or without. Another is to discontinue selling it once the current supply runs out. A third is to re-record it once I am done with "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess". But there are more possibilities and I'm open to any other ideas. Please e-mail me your suggestions and comments.

Fireaxe removes Wikipedia

For some reason the Fireaxe entry on Wikipedia has been completely removed. I'm not sure why. Itís possible that it might have fallen under the self-promotion clause, but then, they do have rather elaborate pages for Britney Spears and Aerosmith. If you made changes to the Fireaxe page that were lost, please send me e-mail and we'll get to the bottom of this issue. In the meantime, I have put the page back up once more. You are welcome to add to and edit it, but keep in mind that your work may suddenly disappear for some unknown reason.

Corruption in the Music Industry - is anyone surprised?

Eliot Spitzer, a man determined to get his name in the newspapers as often as possible, and finding a great way to do so by uncovering pervasive white collar crime, has forced Sony BMG into a settlement involving a serious payola scandal to the tune of 10 million dollars. To put that in perspective, when Napster settled their lawsuit in which Sony BMG were one of the plaintiffs, Napster had to pay out 36 million dollars. So for Sony BMG it's simply easy come, easy go. To put it even more in perspective, 10 million is a small sum for a division that sells 4 billion dollars worth of music every year. The bad press is probably more damaging than the settlement.

Yes, Virginia, the major labels do pay off the programming directors of radio stations to get airplay for their acts. It was true in the past, it's true in the present, and it will probably continue to be true until the human race finally, and mercifully, exterminates itself. Does this come as a surprise to anyone out there? I'm not sure how it possibly could have to anyone who has ever listened to the radio. No matter the station, in general you hear one of two songs: one that you've heard at least a hundred times before, or one that you will hear at least hundred more times before you die. Surely there has to be more music out there than the Doors, the Stones, and Led Zeppelin, but if you listen to any classic rock station, that's pretty much all you get. Many stations have similarly tight playlists. As a result, radio is pretty much a vast wasteland, and most alternatives suffer from a similar malady. Payola continues to pollute and homogenize the public airwaves.

It's all about profit, mass production, dominating the ear of the public, etc. You've heard it all before. But the parts that truly disgust me about this particular case are the details of how the payola scheme was conducted and the shameless attitudes of those involved. "I'm a whore this week. What can I say?", one station manager wrote in an e-mail indicative of the flippant and cavalier attitude of those involved. The payola was widespread, affecting both Infinity Broadcasting and Clear Channel Communications who, combined, control nearly a quarter of radio stations nationwide. As usual the FCC, which is responsible for enforcing payola laws, was either asleep or on the take, having levied but a single $8,000 fine for payola in the last ten years.

This is a powerful lesson to all of us about how corruption can flow almost unfettered in a supposedly open market system. When you're Sony, you have a tremendous amount of super cool gear that you can give away in exchange for getting your artists put into the heavy rotation. That much is pretty obvious. But some of the schemes involved holding fake contests with fake winners where prizes such as plasma TVs were delivered to the programming directors of radio stations. Consider the number of contests that occur every day and how easily they can be rigged and you get an idea of how pervasive payoff arrangements can potentially be. Furthermore, I doubt that this method of bribery, as well as numerous others, are limited to just payola schemes.

Kickbacks and bribery are rife in our government as well as nepotism and what amounts to clan loyalty in determining which candidates are chosen for a given position. It's not unusual for a politician to be squeaky clean while in office, pushing legislation that benefit certain companies, only to get hired by one of those companies in a ceremonial position with a hefty salary after his or her term is over. And some politicians make millions on speaking tours, all legally of course, since technically it's not bribery if the payoff appears to be a fee for service arrangement and occurs a couple years after the fact. Former executives are appointed to serve on "watchdog" committees where they regulating the industries that they once served in. Their policies are usually extremely lenient and the conflict of interest involved is staggering. Politicians' family members get special treatment when it comes to employment and opportunity and it's not just Mike Powell. Nepotism is everywhere in Washington. The same thing goes with judges, lobbyists, lawyers, and potentially anyone else who is a part of the system. We are told that the gifts their family members and acquaintances receive don't influence their decisions at all but the truth is that their decisions and legislation reek of special interests. Despite the trappings of democracy our system is thick with corruption and backroom deals which make a mockery of the idea of a representative government.

And when it comes to merit, the word rings hollow within our government, the music industry, and throughout our entire social system. Of course, it's not as if those at the highest levels of government or the bands that get the most airplay are completely incompetent. They do have at least some merit. But when comparing the credentials of those selected to those passed over it's difficult to not be aghast at the injustice involved in the selection process. And when rewards are piled high for the chosen while those left out receive only crumbs it's easy to see why so many of our best and brightest are filled with bitterness and contempt for the system that has failed them. But these sentiments are not just for the unlucky few. Indeed they have permeated the entire social order as many workers at all levels have watched their standards of living decline while watching those of the fortunate grow at a record pace. When hard work is not rewarded, merit becomes an empty word, and slowly but surely our society is forsaking the old ideals in favor of new idols that promise instant riches. Our civilization has been through this cycle many times before and history shows that it does not end well.

The Fireaxe theory states the following: that aggressive ideologies must continue to grow or face internal strife as their aggressive members will feed on each other to satisfy their needs; and, that internal struggle results in ideological mutation. I can see this occurring today with the internet as a catalyst for ideological change. Millions of disenfranchised people are finding a new life within a large number of internet based subcultures and counter- cultures. The cross-pollination of new ideas across the world wide web is beginning to send some serious shockwaves through the real world as bloggers and alternative news sources have risen up to challenge the established media. Those who have merit, but have been passed over by the system for one reason or another, have been given a voice and they, or rather we, are using it to bring about change. Yes, the internet is a big chaotic mess, but that doesn't mean that it is not a powerful force. Its many faces gives it a mass appeal that conventional media, along with many other institutions, are finding it difficult to compete with. And the fact that the internet is dramatically changing people's lives is proof of its power and potential.

I think that as our speculation based economy continues to stumble and starts to fall, the powerful voice of change embodied by the internet will become a deafening roar. I think that it will drive reality rather than reflect it and that it will form the core of whatever new ideology arises. The difficult part is trying to figure out what that new ideology will look like. I think that it will not be a homogenous or centralized system but rather a collection of mainly radical and often oppositional factions which have few things in common but which each value privacy and thrive on conflict. This is, in essence, what the internet is today, a world where politeness is optional, but retribution limited. We interact differently there and that is changing how we interact in person. What will be interesting is watching how these changes alter the real world, or rather, the meat world, since the life on the internet is becoming more and more real each day. I tend to think that it will become more and more difficult to implement any kind of social order or cohesion in a world that is heavily influenced by the internet. The internet is more fluid that the meat world, and people will demand more flexibility in all facets of their lives. Also, in the event of an economic collapse, many governments may break down to a great degree and we may end up with privatization of virtually all formerly public services. This will likely give way to intensely competitive markets as people demand options and flexibility. Look for "McNeighborhoods" where franchises compete against each other to provide essential services to their tenants/citizens. And the disorder will probably usher in a new age of war. I think that a lot of local conflicts will erupt which may grow into a larger war, but the conflicts might stay local and we might simply end up in a sort of corporate feudalism where alliances, local skirmishes, and terrorism between factions are the norm. But whatever the future holds, I don't expect a smooth transition to it. Preparations are in order.

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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