paradise lostVeteran gothic metal crew Paradise Lost head the quartet of bands vying for your financial favours this week as we check out the best of tomorrow’s new releases.

Label mates Arch Enemy and Despised Icon add to the ear-bleeding feel of this week’s Rock Solid but if classic rock’s more your thing then you must check out emerging US band Surefire.

paradise lost faithParadise Lost – Faith Divides Us…Death Unites Us (Century Media)

It would be incredibly easy for a band of Paradise Lost’s indisputable vintage to rest comfortably on their rock laurels and churn out more of the same, more often.

Yet this masterpiece in gothic metal is one of their finest works to date, at times rivalling the mighty Metallica for sheer brute force moulded with pin sharp production. Vocalist Nick Holmes delivers the performance of his life and this is a decidedly rude – if welcome – awakening  for those of us who have brushed aside Paradise Lost in previous years.

I Remain and Frailty are fantastic in terms of creating an intense atmosphere few bands can replicate in the studio. It remains to be seen just how powerful this brace of metal masterpieces sounds live but it should be something special.

If you’ve dismissed PL in the past as nothing more than unfashionable goths with a tired point to prove it’s time to think again. This is their time and this is THE album.

rushonrock rated: 9/10 Lost Treasure

arch enemy rootArch Enemy – The Root Of All Evil (Century Media)

A reworking of the band’s first three albums, spanning Arch Enemy’s 1996-99 period, this is not a new album as such. But with vocalist Angela Gossow on blistering form old tunes are given fresh life and those unfamiliar with the Swedish metal merchants will find much to admire in this excellent snapshot of a band brimming with confidence.

Gossow is a true expert in the art of controlled vocal aggression, leaving the majority of her male and female counterparts trailing in a wake of focused screams and targeted growls. Yet for the true metal fan it’s the fretwork which really stands out on The Root Of All Evil.

Demonic Science sums it up as every guitar hero’s dream manifestst itself in five minutes of axe-grinding mayhem. But the riff of the week comes in the shape of the newly urgent Pilgrim with its NWOBHM roots and raucous solo.

Well worth a punt if you’re an Arch Enemy virgin and even die-hards can die harder with Gossow in this form.

rushonrock rated: 8/10 The Root Of All Excellence

despised iconDespised Icon – Day Of Mourning (Century Media)

Fair play to Century Media for keeping the metal flag flying and in Paradise Lost and Arch Enemy they boast two bands fully deserving of a good deal – and a good deal of praise too.

What Despised Icon deserve is open to debate but a good kick up the backside wouldn’t be a bad place to start. Sporadically challenging, this record misses the target on so many levels, not least the lazy vocals.

If you’re going to scream your way through a record then at least demonstrate a crumb of consistency. This is the vocal equivalent of a drunk lass pumped full of Bigg Market trebles – all over the place. 

The title track and All For Nothing are the standout tracks but they’re the only two we’d go back to. On this evidence Despised Icon need to set new goals and get down to business. Fast.

rushonrock rated: 4/10 Mourning Underachievement

surefire resizeSurefire – Surefire (Self Released)

Think Free, Cream and just about every other British blues-inspired band from four decades ago and you’re already getting an inkling of what the sensational Surefire bring to the classic rock table.

This is both stripped down and tuned up, laid back and urgent. In fact this is a retro record filled with ambitious intent and boasting enough memorable hooks to make David Coverdale jealous (poosibly).

There’s no doubt Eddie Kramer’s trademark production has added an extra dimension to the Surefire package but songs like Lucy and Sea Song are so sweet you probably need to floss after listening. If this band ever gets across to the UK fans here will welcome them with open arms – and they should. It doesn’t get much better than this as belting debuts go.

rushonrock rated: 9/10 Surefire Hit