The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 9.1

Dec 2, 2005

"I came to serve honorably and feel dishonored.
Death before being dishonored anymore."
- military ethicist Col. Ted Westhusing's suicide note

"Westhusing struggled with the idea that monetary values
could outweigh moral ones in war. This, she said, was a flaw.
Despite his intelligence, his ability to grasp the idea that
profit is an important goal for people working in the private
sector was surprisingly limited,' wrote Lt. Col. Lisa Breitenbach.
'He could not shift his mind-set from the military notion of
completing a mission irrespective of cost, nor could he change
his belief that doing the right thing because it was the right
thing to do should be the sole motivator for business'."
- The L.A. Times, reporting
a military psychologist's evaluation of Ted Westhusing
revealing a disturbing tolerance for military contractors
who flout ethics, morality, and the law in the pursuit of profit.

Many times during history class, reading through the vast volumes of past events, and watching documentaries on some of the more educational television stations I've asked myself the famous rhetorical question, "What were they thinking?". I mean, honestly. It is as if you could replace the title of any college level history class with something like, "Extreme Human Stupidity 101". Spending twenty years dragging enormous rocks across the desert to build a pyramid is almost completely futile, but at least when you're done you have a pyramid to admire and it sure beats being buried alive with the corpse of the pharaoh. Compare that with the endless succession of wars through the ages fought for reasons that seem trivial today where all your hard work, risk, and sacrifice ends up merely relocating gold and riches from one king's palace to another's. (To be fair there is the joy of rape and plunder along with the feeling that you're somehow special because you survived the fighting, if you survived that is, but is it worth spending ten years away from your family, land, and loved ones for a few nights of revelry?) How easy it is to look back at all that chaos and struggle and rest happily in the belief that we have overcome all those idiotic obsessions.

Easy indeed. We can look back on the Crusades and the Inquisition and the witch trials and shake our heads. We can wonder what church leaders were thinking when they tortured people into confession and what crusaders were thinking when they murdered Jews for pleasure while on their way to Jerusalem. Those people of the past were certainly nothing like us. We are enlightened. We can look back on the madness that possessed the people of Germany in the 1930s as they went from building a magnificent new nation from the ashes of the old to building a war machine that killed tens of millions and exterminated millions more in cold blood. Those evil Germans were nothing like us, but their descendants have seen the light and now they're free. And we can laugh at the follies of the stock market speculators and the greedy bankers who brought forth a world wide economic disaster in the 1930s with their voracious appetites for yet more money. They must have been blind not to have seen the dangers. It's a good thing that we have learned from their mistakes so that things like that can never happen again.

Yes, there's nothing like a good bout of relative peace and stability to make us all believe that we've entered a new age of prosperity. The arguments are persuasive: nuclear weapons and mutual assured destruction have forced the major powers away from war and towards negotiation to settle disputes; computerized banking and interconnected world markets have integrated the world and brought about major improvements in efficiency and productivity; and the internet itself has brought forth a global social revolution that is only beginning to unfold. With a little spin and a few well picked statistics our global future can be made out to look like utopia is finally in our grasp. World War Two, the great turning point in history according to many American Pundits, is behind us and civilization has won. World Peace is now upon us for good, provided that we exterminate all those pesky terrorists who hate all this wonderful progress.

Like the grossly over-priced real estate all around me, I'm not buying it. The closer I look at the events unfolding, the more I see all the signs of humanity falling into the same traps of old albeit in new and different forms. I see truth withering on the vine as people seek out those who tell them what they want to hear. The entirety of the news media market, consisting of television, radio, the internet, and word of mouth, is becoming like a modern day Tower of Babel and I see how each of us holding a well established version of the truth which is incompatible with other people's versions is preventing us from communicating with each other.

I see lofty ideals cut down by the power of fear, loathing, and a desire for revenge. Christians are acting in appallingly unchristian ways, those sworn to uphold the constitution are shredding it instead, police state apologists who say that they're patriots write that torture is necessary to defend us from tyranny, respected investigative journalists betray our trust by presenting forgeries as fact, and the act of forcing democracy down people's throats seems to be perfectly fine with most people as long as we don't lose too many soldiers in the process. It's fine if those other people die, but not if we do.

I see common sense and respect for one's neighbor sacrificed on the altar of greed. We export our good jobs while "importing" cheap labor to do the jobs that "Americans won't do", bankruptcy is now a legitimate business strategy to force unions into deep concessions, war and disaster profiteering are reaching epidemic levels, and we buy SUVs so that if we get into a serious accident we will be more likely to survive (and, incidentally, the other guy is more likely to die - but, fuck him!).

I see how these things fan their own flames. People who get victimized often have to adopt the same devious methods as their rivals to compete in a world of sleeping or partisan watchdogs. The constant struggle incites the masses to form into mobs, deepening the divisions between social, racial, religious, and political classes. History is speaking louder and louder but we refuse to listen. Indeed, the question: "What were they thinking?" has become "What are we thinking?". Now that I can see it happening I know the answer: we aren't thinking. We've let our dreams, our emotions, and our desires give us tunnel vision, at least those of us who have a choice about what we do, and the big picture is only a distraction which can lead us astray. After all the "big picture" is just someone else's opinion, isn't it?

So like the noble Col. Westhusing it's difficult for me to sit by and watch the world slowly disintegrate while being powerless to prevent it. Of course, I'm not about to kill myself as he did. I don't consider myself responsible for the actions of others and I don't feel dishonored by the actions of thugs masquerading as mercenaries and soldiers. Well, actually I do feel dishonored, just not to the point of shame as deep as Col. Westhusing felt. But I always thought that it was me who was flawed for not feeling so strongly about American ideals, not the Colonel, who volunteered to go to Iraq and fight the good fight. It seems as though the American ideology born after World War Two has finally died with Col. Westhusing. Where once we had presidents like Truman, who denounced war profiteering as treason and stamped it out, and Eisenhower, who warned of the influence of the military-industrial complex, we now have presidents who green light unethical behavior and shirk accountability. The new American ideology has been decades in the making and the unethical and irresponsible behavior which characterizes it has penetrated deeply into every corner of this nation and beyond. I'd like to see it all go away, but I know that it won't until the next example of Extreme Human Stupidity reaches critical mass and teaches us all a long overdue lesson. Like I've said before, I'd love to be wrong and I'm not looking forward to the future if I'm right, but like hell if I'm going to just sit here and hope that everything will work out nicely.

Speaking of critical mass, "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess" is now completely written. Recording will begin shortly as soon as I plunge some hard earned dollars into some choice new gear and whip my voice and fingers back into shape. It looks like 2006 is going to be a productive year for Fireaxe.

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

Recording set to begin on "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess"

It's been over two years since I flipped the last few bits on "Food for the Gods", backed up all my files, and put away all my recording equipment. At that time I was wondering if there was even going to be another Fireaxe CD after the massive triple-disk effort since my health was continuing to deteriorate even after my cancerous kidney was removed. I've documented those struggles in past editions of The Burning Blade and it has been a long hard road back to good health, or at least to good enough health. It's been a long time since I've felt as good as I do now and I'm very happy to be able to get back into the musical grind. It's time to throw down the gauntlet once more and let fly with another screaming CD.

Fireaxe music is challenging music and "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess" will not be an exception. In fact it will likely be the most challenging Fireaxe CD of them all both musically and thematically. Like "A Dream of Death" and "Food for the Gods", "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess" will be a concept album with each track building upon the last and until the crushing final act has left the listener both satisfied and blown away. I've always been partial to concept albums, especially those that could be described by the term "rock opera". Sure, heavy metal is great music to bang your head to or fire you up before a big event, but metal can also be much more than just another form of modern music. Metal can aspire to greatness.

I haven't watched very many plays, operas, or movie musicals in my life, but they have always struck me as being strongly expressive in a way that non-musical productions cannot. Music can convey raw emotional power and metal is no exception especially when it comes to focused anger. But in the hands of a fine musician, metal can capture a wide range of emotions and be as expressive as any form of music. I've always wanted to be that kind of musician and put the stories that I wanted to tell up on stage backed by the kind of music that I wanted to hear. That vision has been the driving force behind Fireaxe and is why the music sounds the way that it does. Fireaxe songs are rather long and flow through a number of movements and moods. This is because I want to say something more than what a few verses and choruses can deliver. Thus I find myself recording concept albums, which are probably the closest that I will ever get to producing my own rock opera.

I'm not saying that I've achieved greatness, or that Fireaxe is so much better than all the other metal bands. I'm just saying that I've been setting my sights a lot higher, or at least in a different direction, than where the vast majority of musicians set theirs. Whether or not I hit my mark is up to the listener. I know that for at least some of you, I've hit that mark, and hearing and reading your feedback is a very rewarding feeling. Now I take aim once more.

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

For the rest of this year and part of the next I will be recording the next Fireaxe CD entitled "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess". I'd like to have it complete by the end of 2006. The new CD will dig deep 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.

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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