Coldplay's new album release is off to a hot start in Britain. Retailers are reporting that early sales of "Viva La Vida" are on track to make the album the fastest and best-selling set of the year.

The EMI release went on sale in the United Kingdom this morning, three days after the country's traditional Monday albums release date. Early indications show the album is a dead cert to bow at No. 1 on the next Official U.K. Albums Chart, which will be announced this Sunday and published the following day.

According to market-leading U.K. music and entertainment retailer HMV, the British alternative rock band's fourth studio album could shift roughly 200,000 copies across the entire retail sector over the next few days, and should outpace the year's best so-far, Duffy's "Rockferry." Duffy's debut sold almost 184,000 copies in its first week on sale this March, and has since certified double-platinum, shifting more than 600,000 units.

HMV spokesman Gennaro Castaldo notes that interest in "Viva La Vida" is at least matching expectations, and it should benefit from the Fathers Day sales-driver this Sunday. The retailer, he notes, has placed one of its largest-ever orders in anticipation of its success.

"There is massive interest in this album, and the early signs are that sales at HMV stores around the country and online at hmv.com are meeting the huge expectations surrounding its release, while it's also being heavily downloaded as well," Castaldo says. "It's likely to be given a big boost by Father's Day gift purchasing - we're expecting loads of kids and mums to buy it for cool dads everywhere."

The promotional set-up of Coldplay's album has seen the band try a radical new "give-away" approach, with the band distributing free MP3 downloads of opening track "Violet Hill" and announcing free concerts in London, New York and Barcelona.

In a similar vein, the band allowed its 415,000-plus "friends" on MySpace an exclusive first listen to the album in the run-up to today's traditional international release. Coldplay is one of the most popular acts on the social networking service.

Early indicators are that "Viva La Vida" will similarly prove a hit in the U.S., where it is due for a June 17 release. Through a partnership with Clear Channel Radio, previews of the album have proven a smash on the Sneak Peek program, generating nearly one million page views and 400,000 plays since it went live last Thursday, Clear Channel reports.

Streams of the album have been available on-demand to more than 300 Clear Channel Radio station Web sites, and has reportedly been exposed to an on-air audience of 35 million and an online audience of 11 million.

Meanwhile, first single "Viva La Vida" last week became the biggest hit of Coldplay's career by jumping 10-3 on the Billboard Hot 100.