Released: 2003, Independent
Well, here it is ... the review that’s been four months in the making. That kind of deliberation begs the question, “What the hell took so long?” Short answer: FOOD FOR THE GODS is an epic concept album featuring nearly four hours of heavy metal music spanning three CDs. With all due respect to Death Angel, absorbing this album in it’s entirety ain’t no frolic in the park. Having said that, I realize that the short answer isn’t good enough, so I have to be honest from the get-go. The bigger reason that this album took so long to review is that I had some prejudices to do away with before I could listen with an honest ear and open mind. Consider what I had to deal with in order to accomplish this.
For starters, FFTG has been hailed as the perfect album by a vocal minority of underground metal elitists. Any time you get that kind of hype about a band and album nobody has ever heard of, you go in as a skeptic. In addition, my skepticism was fueled by the previous work I had heard from Fireaxe. Though I had been impressed by the emotional investment that was apparent in the older music, I wasn’t particularly enamored with the songwriting, technical skill and production. With the exception of a couple songs, it was all pretty mediocre. To make matters worse, when I finally received the album in the mail, I discovered a disclaimer in the CD insert stating that FFTG is “art in it’s most pure form” and a “profound interpretation of the world around us” before concluding that “Fireaxe cannot be held responsible for the disintegration of your belief systems” as a result of listening. And you thought Michael Jackson was pretentious for proclaiming to the world that he’s the King of Pop? The way I see it, if your music is truly profound art that can change lives, you shouldn’t have to convince anybody and you sure as hell don’t have to make yourself out to be some noble sage imparting knowledge to the unlearned. So, working within the context of those pre-conceived prejudices, I forged ahead. But first, a little background ...
Fireaxe is the work of but one man, California’s Brian Voth. FOOD FOR THE GODS marks the third full length album from Fireaxe, all of which have been written, recorded, produced and distributed independently by Voth himself. Since Voth has no desire to make a profit on his work, it appears that this one man operation will remain the modus operandi for time and all eternity.
The music of Fireaxe can best be described as classic heavy metal with traces of speed, doom, thrash and power metal. Of the overall package that is Fireaxe, Voth’s vocal abilities will probably be the most difficult for people to acclimate themselves to, but all you really need to know is this: while Voth is by no means the most gifted vocalist, what he lacks in technical ability, he more than makes up for in emotion. Voth doesn’t just sing words, he lays it all out when he lets it rip.
Voth may be a one man band, but FFTG doesn’t necessarily sound like it. The main foundation of the Fireaxe sound is the guitar, with solid riffs and creative guitar solos. The type of riff Voth uses often depends on the tone of the song, so a song like “Covenant” (where God is speaking to Moses) features doomy riffs to convey a sense of dread and a song like “Chariot” (where a soldier is racing off to war) features thrashy speed riffs to convey a sense of movement. As for the solos, the better ones convey emotions in keeping with the setting of the particular song. In fact, at times the solos are almost a second voice. But don’t worry, Voth has chops too, so sometimes it’s just about pure shred. As for keyboards, they’re used periodically throughout the album and are especially effective during songs that try to convey a sense of pain, desperation or isolation, such as during one of the better songs on the album, “I Live In Silence.” The only thing that truly drags the album down sonically is the use of drum machine software, which sometimes sounds silly enough to be a distraction at best and an annoyance at worst. Don’t send a machine to do a man’s job, says I.
The concept behind FOOD FOR THE GODS is immense, since it weaves the tale of several religious figures over the course of mankind’s history. As a whole, the album puts forth the idea that from the beginning of time man has created gods in order to fulfill basic human needs. Among those are the need to be wanted and loved. Additionally, these man-made gods fuel the desire for power and justify the seeking of vengeance over one’s enemies. Voth speculates that the gods man has made will continue to lead to suffering and psychological enslavement, until those gods are completely annihilated. This is a very succinct summary, I leave it to the listener to uncover more. And by the way, I am very aware of my use of words like “idea” and “speculate” in my summary, as they are intentional. I do not share the majority of Voth’s views. Frankly, some of them and the venom with which they are expressed come off as paranoid delusion, comparable to what you’d expect from those who fear black helicopters, the Bilderbergs or a vast right wing conspiracy. But credit where credit is due, it’s the almost fanatical conviction and emotion that elevates the album. It wouldn’t work without it. And besides that, I don’t have to agree with Voth’s world view to appreciate his music. At least he attacks ALL religion and not just Christianity, which means he’s revealing core beliefs. This is different from most anti-religious metal which focuses only on Christianity, thus coming across as an intellectually half-assed vendetta against an organization or group of people, or even worse, a gimmick.
As for the tracks, the highlights of the album include the thrashy speed metal assault of “Chariot”, the impassioned call to arms monologue of “Malediction”, the epic 11 minute journey that is “River Of Madness”, the haunting expression of self-pity in “I Live In Silence” and the entire chapters of “Raise The Black Flag” and “The Soul Doctors.” As one might expect from an album that stretches for nearly four hours, there are also parts that drag and parts that feel very repetitive. So no, this isn’t a perfect album, but it is a damn good one.
In the end, despite it’s limitations and imperfections, true metalheads have absolutely nothing to lose by investing in a copy FOOD FOR THE GODS, especially considering the reasonable sticker price. The album is made in the true spirit of heavy metal with a dedication to crafting music that is much more about expression than it is about sound. And since many songs from the Fireaxe repertoire can be downloaded for free at the official website, your experiment costs you nothing but a little time. So get off your lazy ass and try the experiment for yourself.
Highlights: Chariot, River of Madness, I Live In Silence
Genre references: Traditional Metal, Thrash Metal, Power Metal, Doom Metal