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Every so often, a band and/or release come along which defies all prior assumptions one might have made about the genre/movement and seems to magically float above a rational explanation. Of course, strange coincidences happen, and within the entire spectrum of metal they happen with relative frequency if you know where to look, but the feeling that a particular release just shouldn't have happened is difficult to shake. For example, Oblivion's song "Deadly" has almost exactly the same riff as Judas Priest's "Painkiller", yet it was released two years earlier, and was far too obscure to have been heard by Priest. Or take Cauldron Born's debut. One of the strongest pinnacles of progressive USPM, yet released in 1997! Chozzen Phate's anomaly is in a similar vein. Released in 1995, one of the absolute worst years for USPM - played by a band with an absolutely horrendous name (spelling words wrong was never cool, and Chozzen Phate is one of the ugliest ways to spell Chosen Fate), and yet managing to sound original in a style that, even in its prime, was 90% shitty Queensryche clones. While certainly plausible, Chozzen Phate are still sort of a head-scratcher, and I know it's not just me - this demo is about as obscure as it gets, probably because of the reasons I just mentioned.
Admittedly, progressive USPM was never a terribly popular style, and it gets less popular when you move away from Queensryche clones and into Fates Warning, Helstar, and Psychotic Waltz style stuff - which this definitely falls under. Rather than borrowing exclusively from one of the three, Chozzen Phate borrow pretty liberally from all of them, combining elements of each band to create a different beast entirely. Taking the quirky aggression of Helstar, the arcane atmosphere from Fates Warning, and the technical chaotic strangeness of Psychotic Waltz, Chozzen Phate play a style that's unlikely to ever be heard again, and more or less inimitable. Given this, as well as their band picture, it's pretty clear these guys weren't interested in popularity; that picture shows pretty much the nerdiest bunch of white guys around, with big curly hairdos, an, erm...strange wardrobe, and some obvious weight problems, it seems as if they knew they weren't going to be popular, and embraced that fact. However, instead of sitting in their basement playing Dungeons and Dragons 24/7, they sat in their basement and made quality USPM! Kudos to these guys, as they clearly knew how best to spend their time.
As far as the quality of the music is concerned, I think it should be pretty clear by now that this isn't bargain bin metal. Not only do Chozzen Phate play an absurdly unique style, but they also play it exceedingly well. I point again to Fates Warning and Psychotic Waltz, who both more or less created their own style (the former especially), and played it the best it could be played. While some musicians may be technically better than these band members, none had songwriting as strong as these bands, and few, if any, imitators have been able to really outdo them - I consider Enchanter and Cauldron Born to be marginally better than Fates Warning, but in all fairness that's really only because of John Arch, who is inferior to both Brian David Osborne and Danny White, respectively. Getting back on topic, Chozzen Phate are both original and highly enjoyable, a fairly deadly combination, and rest assured this demo will kick your ass. The production is excellent, as is the singer - if perhaps not quite as good as some of the aforementioned greats. Paul DeLeon sounds a hell of a lot like James Rivera, actually, albeit with a more melodic style and a more somber, desperate tinge. He's definitely quite versatile, going from melodic, wistful passages to chaotic, aggressive ones without any sign of struggle or difficulty. It's certainly not easy to sing this material - but DeLeon makes it seem so, which is itself a feat of no small value.
The songs here basically fall into two somewhat ambiguous categories; those that lean toward the melodic and atmospheric side, and those that lean toward the savage and chaotic. "Lost Forever" and "The INF" fall in the former category. "Lost Forever" really reminds me, more than anything, of the ghost train from Final Fantasy VI. I'm not sure if the melodies are similar, if I listened to it while playing the game, or what, but the atmosphere definitely conjures up the same emotions for me. Peaceful, sad, otherwordly...more or less resigned to the idea of death, but with thoughts of it as an unknown dreamlike state, and pain recalling memories of life. At the beginning, I can almost see a blanket of mist covering something unknown which is about to be revealed...certainly the most atmospheric of the bunch, it accomplishes its goals excellently, and is probably the best song here - although that's not to say it doesn't have competition. "The INF" definitely has some chaotic segments, but the intro especially has a very Fates Warning vibe to it, sad and serene, much like "Lost Forever", but focusing more on the sorrow and less on the mystery. DeLeon sounds like some sailor on an abandoned ship, scared for his life and trying to make the most of his last hours. Of course, there are probably other interpretations, but that's what's most apparent to me.
The other three songs, "Hall of Souls", "Lifeless Eyes", and "Second to None" are more straightforward - although that's like saying someone with $950,000 is poor in comparison to someone with $1,000,000 - it's not really true - not in any way that's relevant, anyway. These are still incredibly complex, progressive songs that change riffs about as often as you can blink. (Yes, that was an intentional exaggeration.) These songs are dark and thrashy, like Helstar's Nosferatu combined with Fates Warning's Awaken the Guardian. They're all excellent, although none really stand out of the pack - which is to Chozzen Phate's favor, as it proves just how consistent there songwriting really was. If only they had released a full-length or two...now we're just left with this demo and some old live tracks, pondering what might have been, and ironically, as wistful as the music they might have written. This is definitely a release you want to track down if you're a fan of power, thrash, or progressive metal of any sort - it certainly won't disappoint, and carries the torch of Fates Warning and Psychotic Waltz proudly.