After only one listen to Sunset Gun, the third studio album from Wisconsin's instrumental progressive-metal trio Kopecky, it becomes clear that these brothers have mastered the art of creating dramatic soundscapes that are both accessible and arty. Thanks to French label Musea Records, the Kopeckys — Joe (six- and seven-string guitars), Paul (acoustic and electric drums and percussion) and William (fretted and fretless basses, keyboards and sitar — yes, sitar) — have become something of an international phenomenon, playing dark music that's as twisted as it is intense.
Early on, Sunset Gun sounds as if it's going to follow in the sinister steps of 1999's self-titled Kopecky CD and 2000's Serpentine Kaleidoscope. The title track opens the album with the disconcerting sound of a man gasping for breath, set against an ominous, apocalyptic rumble that gives way to hypnotic beats and chanting before melding into a buzz and then exploding with an off-kilter rhythm. The next track, "Ascension," plays out like a schizophrenic one-act play, with the guitar as the main character, a pummeling rhythm section as the enemy and hesitant yet ultimately hopeful keyboards as the hero.
But then a spirited and jaunty Middle-Eastern vibe (this is where the sitar comes into play) permeates "The Divine Art of Flying," while the slower tempo of "Departure," with its lead guitar and commercial melodies, invokes Joe Satriani. Meanwhile, "Selqet's Kiss" is downright lighthearted, at least until the marathon track's midway point, when Kopecky resumes its mysterious and menacing sonic violence that seethes throughout most of the band's other material. And the crying babies that flank the dark and somber "Creation's Brief Gift" stir uncomfortable thoughts. Even the jazzy self-indulgent jamming on "Temptation's Screaming-Ground" offers plenty of insight into the band's musical arsenal.
By confidently shedding some of its cold and sharp-edged angles while retaining rich and vital textures, Kopecky finally embraces the kind of musical diversity on Sunset Gun that should earn the band an even stronger following.
1) Sunset Gun (7:57)
2) Ascension (5:32)
3) The Divine Art of Flying (5:22)
4) Selqet's Kiss (10:49)
5) Creation's Brief Gift (10:11)
6) Temptation's Screaming-Ground (9:49)
7) Departure (9:49)
Total Running Time (55:39)