If new rock and metal is your bag then it’ll be full to bursting this week as the big names go up against the new boys.

There’s the latest offerings from metal masters Black Label Society, Drowning Pool, German heroes Accept and former Live frontman Ed Kowalczyk – we review and rate them all.

There’s the new record from Dead Confederate and if debut albums are your thing then we advise you check out releases by two of the best British bands around – The Union and Voodoo Johnson (pictured).

Dead Confederate – Sugar (Kartel Records)

We’re still getting over the monster that was debut album Wrecking Ball and, all of a sudden, those Georgia boys Dead Confederate are ready to unleash follow-up Sugar.

And if you loved the Oasis-meets-Kasabian-meets-Verve sound which underpinned last year’s rushonrock rated 7/10 Wrecking Ball then this laid back take on that impressive effort will more than satisfy your listening needs.

And although there are still enough prog-rock, scuzz rock and psychedelic moments to keep new and old fans alike on their toes this is not the giant leap forward we were hoping for. At times it seems the plan was to stand still and take stock.

Tracks like the J Mascis collaboration Giving It All Away mark DC down as future chart busters and the foreboding By Design is a brilliantly desperate tune. Neither would have appeared out of place on Wrecking Ball which brings us back to the original observation: progress has been steady rather than spectacular. SR

rushonrock rated: 6/10 Dead In Their Tracks

The Union – The Union (Payola Records)

Throw together one of the most experienced blues-loving guitarists in Britain and one of the country’s fastest-rising crooners and the result should be a match made in classic rock heaven.

Former Thunder axe slinger Luke Morley and ex-Winterville vocalist Pete Shoulder each boast enough raw talent in their little fingers to cruise to the top of their game without much effort. And those who saw the pair strut their stuff at the inaugural High Voltage festival last month must assume that ascension is going to happen sometime soon.

Classic Rock magazine have named them as one of their newcomers of the year and yet there’s something missing from this good, rather than great, debut. Failing to match the verve and enthusiasm they displayed on the Victoria Park main stage it seems the production is to blame on this patchy self-titled record.

Tracks like Easy Street and Watch The River Flow ooze passion and conviction played live but slapped on the old stereo and the retro cool flavour is lost. Black Monday saves the day with its punchy riff and commercial sheen and neither Morley nor Shoulder let their standards slip across their highly anticipated collaboration.

It’s impossible to fault the boys for effort but there’s something wrong with the mix. And that’s why we just can’t give this record the top rating it really deserves. SR

rushonrock rated: 7/10 State Of The Union

Ed Kowalczyk – Alive (earMUSIC)

As frontman with multi-million selling US alt rock crew Live the likeable Ed Kowalczyk proved he’s quite adept at reeling off modern radio friendly anthems – and could probably do so until the cows come home.

This solo record maintains the singer’s consistency and ensures he retains his reputation as a rock performer par excellence. But is that really enough in such a competitive market? Failing to deviate too wildly from his comfort zone is no crime and this album will somewhat quell the clamour for a new Live album – yet freed from the constraints of the band dynamic Kowalczyk really could have broken new ground.

As it is Alive is exactly what we’ve come to expect from one of the best singers in the business. Tunes like Grace and In Your Light might come across as a little too squeaky clean for the metal market but there’s no denying their class. Slip either in the car stereo this summer and your journey will seem all the more uplifting.

Bizarrely Kowalczyk saves the best until last and the fantastic Fire On The Mountain really is a testimony to this individual’s enduring talent. More songs like this and we’d be talking about a moder-day classic.

For an individual who felt trapped by his former band this is, surprisingly, no huge departure from what went before. It’s enough like Live to satisfy the singer’s existing fan base and new enough to bring some new faces to the party. And maybe that’s the way to be. SR

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Ed Boy

Voodoo Johnson – 10,000 Horses (Polarian Records)

Harking back to a golden age of British rock bands this bunch of Brummie noiseniks sound like the bastard child of Terrorvision and Little Angels circa 1992.

Pedalling an intoxicating blend of monster riffs and melodic choruses we’ve been following Voodoo Johnson’s sedate yet significant progress ever since the rushonrock staff captured a barnstorming Hard Rock Hell 2009 set. Back then a little pub stage showcased a band with arena potential and this rousing record proves Kev Bayliss and his buddies are on an unstoppable upward spiral.

If VJ have the likes of Stone Gods and New Device in their sights in the race to be crowned the UK’s most appealing new rock band then the alt rock flavour of End Of the Empire could break down barriers worldwide. Make no mistake – this cracking track is as good a tune as you’ll hear all year but 10,000 Horses is peppered with such aural gems.

Guitarists Carlo Gethin and Pablo trade in the kind of classic rock riffs which had all but died from the UK club scene a decade ago and their fresh take on some retro axe slinging must be heard to be believed. Complementing Bayliss’s made-for-rock vocals the fret-burning duo lie at the heart of everything good about VJ. We love it. And we want to live it. SR

rushonrock rated: 9/10 Voodoo Childs

Drowning Pool – Drowning Pool (ElevenSeven Music)

The self titled album signals the return of metal rockers Drowning Pool, and what a return it is. The story of the album starts back in 2002, after tragedy struck the band, when Dave ‘Stage’ Williams was found dead on the band’s tour bus.

A new singer came and went before ex SoiL frontman, Ryan McCombs took up the reigns and the challenge in 2005 before recording Full Circle in 2007. The most striking impression of Drowning Pool is the emotion that drips from every song. The band feels energized and motivated.

McCombs’ gravelly vocals suit the shredding and outstanding drum work throughout the album with plenty of highlights. Let The Sin Begin, Feel Like I Do and Regret are fast paced tracks that take no prisoners and wouldn’t sound out of place bouncing around arenas across the world.

The whole album is played at break-neck pace and looking for a gasp of respite is hard to find. Alcohol Blind is the nearest the band comes to easing up. The album as a whole sounds like a heavier version of Chad Kroeger’s Nickleback. The only negative is that most songs sound too similar, although it must be pointed out they all sound equally as good! The band never really captures the same sound of smash hit Bodies but moves on to a new gritty and emotion laden one.

A cracking album that could signal the return of a potential giant. Just don’t forget to breath guys! AS

rushonrock rated: 8/10 Drowned In Sound

Accept – Blood Of The Nations (Nuclear Blast)

At a time when Iron Maiden’s latest opus has once again raised the heavy metal bar this is a brave release. But then Accept is a band which never lacked balls.

Unleashing a new studio album for the first time in 14 years, and featuring former TT Quick man Mark Tornillo on vocals, the word ‘expectation’ has never been more apt. But after a slow start this is one record which more than lives up to the hype.

You don’t sell more than 30 million albums worldwide without developing a knack for catchy metal anthems and with founding member Wolf Hoffman still a central figure there are plenty of those here. And none catchier than the battle metal-tinged title track.

Next up is the prog-metal Shades Of Death which sounds like Mindcrime-era Queensryche without Geoff Tate’s refined vocals. It’s a great track and a testimony to what Accept circa 2010 can produce.

Tornillo is unrelenting in his passionate delivery and on Locked And Loaded he lets rip like never before. Then it’s time to ape Joe Lynn Turner as he turns it down to perform the ballad Kill The Pain – it’s great to hear and will be even greater to witness live. Accept this: Accept are back. SR

rushonrock rated: 9/10 Accept’s Battle Won

Black Label Society – Order Of The Black (Roadrunner Records)

Four years is a long time in rock and Zakk Wylde would surely agree. In the time since the release of 2006’s Shot To Hell the guitar hero’s reputation has soared and yet, bizarrely, he’s been unceremoniously sacked by long-time cohort Ozzy Osbourne.

Listening to this exceptional chunk of heavy metal Wylde’s well rid of the Prince Of Darkness. Sounding better vocally than the former Sabbath frontman and still capable of producing the extreme licks most metal peers would die for this could – and should – be a career-defining album for the New Jersey native.

Whether letting his trusty axe do the talking on prog-metal-tinged masterpiece Overlord or proving his vocal credentials on the mellow yet brooding Darkest Days there’s a lot to like about this compelling record.

The groove-laden Southern Dissolution could be one of label mates’ Black Stone Cherry’s heavier moments and Wylde is in wonderful form as he rips into a stunning solo a minute from the end. But there are so many standout moments on Order Of The Black it’s easy to lose count.

Try waving your lighter at the Guns N Roses-esque Time Waits For No One and you might just shed a tear. In fact Wylde’s ability to sound so mean and so caring on the same record is one of his greatest talents and underpins an album which should appeal to the metal masses and the 80s rock devotees alike.

This is a true triumph. Buy it.

rushonrock rated: 10/10 Black Rock

This week’s reviewers: Simon Rushworth and Andy Spoors.