There are several reasons why Norman’s Rainbows Are Free describes its sound as “heavy devil music.” There’s the heavy riffage, pounding percussion, mind-bending psychedelia, rants against religion and … well, this.
“There’s the sacrifices, and our love for the dark lord,” bassist Chad Hogue said in deadpan. “You kind of need the devil to help you sell it.”
Added lead guitarist Richie Tarver, “It doesn’t sound like something you want to listen to while praying.”
Rainbows Are Free has become the go-to doom-metal band in the metro since its formation in 2007, garnering them opening spots for High on Fire, The Sword and Queensrÿche.
Inspired by Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, the un-metal name may be deceiving, but the band is quick to note that label both fits and doesn’t.
“On the music family tree, I like to say we appear on the part where psychedelic, heavy, classic rock and proto-metal diverge into their own branches,” Tarver said. “We’re not an overt metal band. We get told that a lot, but I think it’s more of a Zep, kind-of-loud classic-rock band that flirts with the heavy shit every once in a while.”
Said lead singer Brandon Kistler, “It’s got a groove. It’s rock ’n’ roll. Speed metal is just speed. This has a swagger.”
“Hopefully,” said Tarver, “it’s something people can get sucked into.”
That sound is drenched in vintage guitar riffs and true to its roots of the ’60s and ’70s, which is part of the charm.
“We’re not doing anything groundbreaking here,” Hogue said. “Really, it’s all been done before, but it’s not really being done now.”
Added Tarver, “I’m not sure why none of us ever moved past that sort of music, but I think it’s just that we all love that era of history.”
“We’re old, so it works,” Hogue said. That fondness for all things old in rock ’n’ roll is on display in Rainbows Are Free’s self-titled debut 2008 EP, and more so in the follow-up, last year’s “Believers in Medicine,” released on Guestroom Records Records.
That title — and much of the record’s subject matter — explores the influence and importance of drugs on the world of metal.
“We’ve all experimented in our lives,” Kistler said. “We’ve all come out of it, none of us went down that dark, dark path or anything. I’m a fan of self-medicating. ... I just believe it’s a part of rock ’n’ roll, especially what we do.”
Added Tarver, “I don’t know how you could not do it, playing the type of music we do. I’m not condoning it, but it’s hard to escape the influence. It’s definitely part of the ritual.”
“We are talking about PCP, right?” asked Hogue, to his bandmates’ laughter.
Playing Saturday at Opolis, Rainbows Are Free has no concrete plans concerning another album, but new music can be expected as early as this fall, via a stream of singles throughout the near future. That’s about the only modern avenue the guys seem interested in using.
“We are doing exactly what it is we want to do,” Hogue said. “I think people are going to appreciate that for what it is.”
Photo by Justin Sober and Nissy Carter