Red vinyl with lyric insert. Limited 400 copies
Viking’s debut ‘Do Or Die’ has always maintained a distinction of drawing mixed responses right since the time of its release. The two factors that form such varied opinions are the sheer energy and fury of this record, much to the liking of many thrash metal freaks whereas the haters find the production very slim giving this a rather dry feel instead. The latter also argue that this is pretty much a poor man’s Dark Angel. Personally when I have to rate any album, I don’t deny that I take a few view points of several other reviewers along with a healthy dose of mine to give the final verdict. For this release though, I still maintain that this is one of the most intense thrash albums ever recorded. With a breeding ground such as Los Angeles, home to many intense thrash units over the years and also its geographical closeness to the SF Bay area, its not hard to imagine what the sound on this would be like. Combining some riff structures of the SF scene with the ferocity of Dark Angel, the output is quite gritty and catchy. When I first heard this album, I was rather surprised to find the downtuned guitars being used here. For the year 1988, this was rather novel considering the standard E approach used by many metal acts around the same time. In all honesty, I’ve never been a big fan of guitar downtuning and my support for it almost ceases to exist considering the fact that many groove metallers use it to create their music. But it actually works really well here though. Frontman Ron Daniels (before becoming a born again Christian) was a very talented individual indeed. His voice though not extremely unique combined some rather aggressive lines with clean vocals devoid of any gruff and snarls. His guitar playing is quite commendable and the addition of future Dark Angel axeman Brett Eriksen who would play on the LA caffeine machine’s highly acclaimed 246 riff strong “Time Does Not Heal” made them a very lethal six stringer duo capable of churning out speedy and intricate razor sharp riffs. The rest of the line-up keeps up with the thrash onslaught with ease but the production as hinted earlier takes a bit of a hammering. It’s not as flat sounding as Damien Thorne’s crème de la crème debut but rather muddy and very bass heavy. Fortunately the riffs are audible and headbanging worthy. Most of the tracks are viciously fast with some incredible thrash breaks. The opener “Warlord” has a killer chorus that flows smoothly along with the main riff while “Hellbound” has a catchy pinch harmonic that forms the opening of the track. My picks on this album would definitely be the insanity driven “Militia of Death” and the epic “Valhalla”, the latter probably being the best song on this album with some cool lyrics and powerful riffs. The second half of the album continues the thrash fest without compromise. While Viking was not really making any original breakthroughs in music, what they did succeed in doing was taking the intensity a few notches higher. Granted there were a few bands around the same time such as Cryptic Slaughter, Wehrmacht, Incubus, Protector or even the Canadian speedsters Aggression and Soothsayer that were creating some insanely fast stuff in the underground but their leanings were a lot towards crossover, hardcore or even death metal. That’s where Viking managed to stay very much in the thrash realm without compromising on the speed. For fans of Eternal Nightmare, Spectrum of Death and Darkness Descends, this is a must have.
3. Militia Of Death
6. Burning From Within
8. Killer Unleashed
9. Do Or Die