Following his work with the Flesh Eaters, California’s Chris D(esjardins) formed the Divine Horsemen, who debuted on the mostly acoustic Time Stands Still. Without an electric band churning away steadily behind him, he’s more appallingly effective than ever. The attractive, understated music belies such sentiments as “Past All Dishonor” and “Hell’s Belle”; the all-star supporting cast includes Blasters, Gun Clubbers, an X and Texacala Jones of the Horseheads.
A no-star electric lineup made the similarly low-key and driven Devil’s River, a record which, like its predecessor, leaves the major responsibility for conveying fear and loathing to the lyrics, here geared to Western/cowboy topics. Chris shares the vocals with Julie C(hristensen), who adds an X-like harmony to the proceedings. A dusty road, but a fascinating one.
Predominately recorded in and around the same sessions as Devil’s River, the oddly compiled and countryfied Middle of the Night features the same crew, with John Doe and D.J. Bonebrake of X guesting on two of the eight cuts. Chris and Julie perform most of the vocals as a relatively mellifluous duo, making this the Horsemen’s most attractive album. The title tune is a sweet lullaby; there are also alternate recordings of two previously issued Chris D. efforts, an acoustic version of David Allen Coe’s country classic “Field of Stone” and two other covers: a slow but accurate “Gimmie Shelter” and the Cramps’ “Voodoo Idol.”
Guitarist Peter Andrus replaced two departing members on Snake Handler, bringing the Horsemen into the light with a trimmed-down, tightened-up rock sound. Comparisons to X at this point are more than fair, although these joint vocals are far more divine than that band’s. The lyrics don’t bear a lot of scrutiny — they may be poetic, but aren’t about much of anything. (The harrowing escape-from-heroin saga “Fire Kiss” is a significant exception.) Chris’ grip on the gritty fear-film idiom is intact, but lines like “Fire is my home/and if you let me die alone/the fire will eat my bones” or “I been waiting for someone like you since I was just thirteen years old” don’t pack any punch.
The Divine Horsemen and Chris D.’s longterm relationship with Christensen dissolved at about the same time, which (as borne out by I Pass for Human‘s more chilling moments) certainly gave the guy plenty to write about. Not surprisingly, there’s little in the way of standard jilted-lover self-pity in Mr. D.’s psyche. Borrowing “Time Stands Still” from an earlier work, he effectively closes the book on that era by retooling it with bitter clinical precision. Indeed, the overall tone of the one-shot Stone by Stone is darn close to the violently lurching blood-Catholic beat-poesy of primo Flesh Eaters (especially the ghost-town atmosphere of the epic “Pale Fire”). No surprise then, that a resurrected version of that very combo came together months after this disc’s release.