Divine Horsemen

Hot Rise of an Ice Cream Phoenix

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Hot Rise of an Ice Cream Phoenix Review

by Mark Deming

Chris D. (aka Chris Desjardins) was only sporadically active in music after the Flesh Eaters called it a day with 2004's Miss Muerte, and now that he's back in action, he has jumped in with both feet. After reuniting the all-star Flesh Eaters lineup that recorded 1981's A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die for touring, he took them into the studio to cut 2019's surprisingly vital comeback album I Used to Be Pretty. With his Flesh Eaters colleagues back to their other pursuits, Desjardins has resurrected another of his former projects. Divine Horsemen was most notable for the vocal blend of Chris D. and Julie Christensen, and the sure-footed clarity of her singing was an intriguing complement for his ragged howl. The breakup of Divine Horsemen was especially complicated since Desjardins and Christensen were man and wife and the collapse of the band coincided with their divorce. In the 2020s, they're cordial enough to work together again, and 2021's Hot Rise of an Ice Cream Phoenix is Divine Horsemen's first studio set since 1987's Snake Handler. Just as it was hard not to compare Divine Horsemen with the Flesh Eaters -- Chris D.'s style is strong enough that it dominates any project in which he takes part -- Hot Rise of an Ice Cream Phoenix seems to invite comparisons with I Used to Be Pretty. Both albums are a blend of new songs, re-recorded catalog material, and covers, and Craig Parker Adams produced both LPs in tandem with Desjardins. The Minute to Pray edition of the Flesh Eaters was an honestly great band, while at best Divine Horsemen were a very good one; the musicians were capable, but not as imaginative as the lead vocalists, and none of their records were a slam dunk. That's also the case with Hot Rise of an Ice Cream Phoenix, though it's also as good an album as Divine Horsemen have ever released. Desjardins' and Christensen's voices are more weathered than they were in the 1980s, yet they play off one another better than ever, and with Peter Andrus on guitars and D.J. Bonebrake on drums, the band hits with authority that suits the songs well. The new tunes are up to the standards of the older cherry-picked material, and the real surprises come with the covers. These aging punk firebrands pull a lot of heat out of Jefferson Airplane's "Ice Cream Phoenix," and if only the most severe movie freak would think of covering "Can't You See Me" (from Robert Downey, Sr.'s barely released 1970 cult item Pound), Desjardins and Christensen rise to the challenge and make it both absurd and darkly funny. Hot Rise of an Ice Cream Phoenix isn't a blazing success, but coming from a group whose batting average was never consistent, the fact that most of it is honestly compelling suggests Divine Horsemen's future may hold more promise than their past.

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