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Dead sound engineers - 68%

Felix 1666, February 1st, 2018
Written based on this version: 1988, 12" vinyl, Metal Blade Records

"Do or Die" - I am sure that the cheeky guys of Viking faced all professional sound engineers in their neighbourhood with these two alternatives. Well, each and every engineer decided to die instead of doing the job. In other words, the production of this debut constitutes its biggest defect. Everything sounds undifferentiated, unbalanced and sticky. Make an experiment and buy the first demo of a random newcomer band that consists of a semi-professional guitarist, his dog (vocals) and a cheap drum computer. I bet that it will have a better production than the nine songs of "Do or Die". Either way, as a consequence of the sound engineer's mass suicide, the band members themselves had to produce the album and they raped their own material rigorously. I nearly admire the destructive force of the band in view of the fact that Brian Slagel was the executive producer. But thrash metal is no high gloss event and therefore this technical implementation is not the death sentence for Viking's first work. It's just a pity that the compositions have no chance to shine in full bloom.

Viking do not play the most technical sort of thrash (or it is not possible to identify their dexterous tricks in view of the muddy mix). No doubt, "Do or Die" did not capture the spirit of classic thrash. Precisely working bands like Forbidden offer fine details, but the gang from Los Angeles prefers a rather massive approach. The result is a headbanging session of the wilder kind. The boring "Prelude" to the rather weak "Scavenger" and the blatantly simple intro to "Killer Unleashed" are the only occasions to pause for breath. Speaking of "Killer Unleashed", this song explodes after the intro in a great manner. The verses are based on strict hammering and fantastic leads, the fiery chorus possesses earworm qualities and the solo obeys the Gods of thunder as well. No doubt, this rapid outburst belongs to the best tracks - and did I already say that its intro is not only primitive, but effective as well?

Viking are able to present some catchy sections, for example the chorus of the title track or that of the furious "Militia of Death". This is surprising, because in general, the band does not provide any kind of extraordinary ingredients. The vocals have a little intersection with those of Don Doty and are generic (angry, not very harmonic, reckless). The music is generic as well (impetuous, vehement, straight) and the "Reign in Blood"-like solos also do not create a unique feature. From this follows that everybody who listens to this work will understand the reasons why this album did not become a milestone in the history of thrash. Anyhow, Viking have energy, a natural grasp for good riffs and an adequate, non-commercial attitude. Okay, vehemence seems to be more important than compositional abilities, but the majority of the songs lies between solid and very good. In short, there is no reason to follow the sound engineers. Don't kill yourself if you do not possess this work! Nevertheless, if there is a chance to get it, feel free to open your wallet.

Giving This Album the Justice It Deserves - 92%

SetAbominae6, January 9th, 2012

Most the time I've spent on this site, I've been a lurker. Not a reviewer nor an active person in the forums. Just a fellow headbanger, a voracious soul, but nobody important. Today, I decided to break the silence. Bring on the endless pain to the evil invaders of this album's reviews, because I must tell you this: This album - Bay-Area Viking's first LP, "Do Or Die", is just as good as "Darkness Descends", if not better. I know I might get a lot of hate for saying that, but that's my honest opinion. While I love Dark "Fucking" Angel just as much as the next guy, I have to say I like Viking much more.

Let's start out with the overall sound of the band. Vocals are typical for thrash - grunts, growls, screams, and the occasional group shout. Guitars are fuzzy and heavy yet precise & accurate at the same time. Both of the Eriksen brothers show they can shred awesome solos and play thunderous rhythm. The bass is really nothing special, as most the time the guitars kind of drown out the sound, but at times you can hear counter-melodies and hooks being played. Drums are precise & stay on rhythm. Thunderous snare & tom sounds coupled with clangy cymbals & a bass drum from the depths of hell - combine them all & you get an excellent memorable thrash metal record that will be sure to make your ears bleed. They play at varying speeds for each song, but its atypically fast; this is thrash, we aren't expecting any ballads [god FORBID a ballad on any thrash metal record (shame on you, Megadeth!) I’m not saying instrumentals are bad, but ballads are the black (or white) sheep of the family]. Viking live up to their peers by playing loud, aggressive, abrasive and down-right evil thrash. While their playing might not be able to be called "innovative" or necessarily "original", but I can say as a thrash fan across the board - If you like thrash, you will like Viking.

Production is the only place that this album lacks. Other than that, “Do or Die” is a keeper for any thrash fan. If this album had as much money put into it as, say, oh, “Darkness Descends” or “Eternal Nightmare”, then maybe it would have better reviews. But back to what I was originally saying - I really don't understand all of the bad hype this band has gotten. Viking are kick ass, and they prove it on every song on this record. I can't pick a single track that I would say is bad. Every song I like for its own reasons. If you like heavy-as-balls thrash metal, like Dark Angel, Vio-Lence, Razor, Demolition Hammer, and early Kreator, then Viking is definitely a band you would like, and I would definitely suggest buying this album. Yes, it's not anything new in the thrash department, but as it was once said, "Why fix what isn't broken?" Viking are good at what they do - and that's playing loud & extremely heavy metal.

Welcome back, Viking. 92/100

Militia of Death!!!! - 95%

cravingforvenom, December 24th, 2010

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 LP, 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 lineup 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 were 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.

No time to catch your breath tonight - 70%

autothrall, December 26th, 2009

Viking was a Californian band formerly known as Tracer, who generated some buzz from Metal Blade records that resulted in their signing and the release of the debut Do or Die. This is a pretty fast and intense record, with an unrelenting streak that survives through the majority of its tracks. For comparisons, think of other extreme Californian acts like Dark Angel, Slayer, Sadus (sans the loud bass), Vio-Lence and perhaps later Hexx (when they switched to thrash metal), and you'll get a pretty fair idea of what Viking were pushing. Although this is a fair effort with a lot of unbridled, raw energy, only a few of the tracks manage to provoke some memorable riffing; the remainder are simply torn through, but at the very least I promise you will be headbanging for almost the entire 32 minutes.

Ron Daniel has a pissed off vocal profile not unlike a mix of Don Doty and Tom Araya, and he spits all over these 9 tracks with a very natural balance of aggression...they don't really clip any of the expression from his barking, so while it may often feel monotone (ala Dark Angel), it can occasionally become wild and charismatic. The guitars just don't stop...they are cruising and thrashing and such maximum velocity that it's hard to imagine these guys (Daniel and Brett Sarachek) getting some lock up in their hands. But then, this is going to be the appeal of Do or Die, it's savage thrusting. Matt Jordan (drums) and James Lareau (bass) are certainly up to the task of keeping pace, the drums are like a storm of slapping sticks and skins which maintain the tempos with precision.

This album blows on by at 90 mph; first with the aggressive "Warlord", and then "Hellbound", with a speed equal to what you'd heard on Eternal Nightmare by Vio-Lence, though the riffs are somewhat less distinct, and Daniel's vocals do not stick out quite like Sean Killian. It's hard to imagine a fan of Darkness Descends not becoming excited here, because very few of the Bay Area/California thrashers were performing so relentlessly and recklessly. "Militia of Death" also bursts on by, as does "Prelude/Scavenger". "Valhalla" actually slows things down to a normal street thrash level, first banging rhythms in full effect, and "Burning from Within" begins with a creepier, slow-paced churning reminiscent of old Pestilence, though it picks up into one of the more intense tracks on the recording. "Berserker" is awesome indeed, a blast of excitement that delivers in both its riffing and speed. "Killer Unleashed" opens with some rolling bass rhythm and descending dual leads, creating a horror-like atmosphere before the forceful thrashing begins. "Do or Die" is another of the better tracks, with more of the band's exciting, unforgiving riffs below some of Daniel's more sporadic vocals and motivational lyrics.

'Make it or break it - that's our battle call
That's the way you've got to live your time
If you won't do it now, don't do it at all
Wasting days is a moral crime'

Do or Die seems such a fitting title for this album, because the band walks into the studio and blows their way through the playlength with abandon. The following album, Man of Straw, is quite reserved by comparison, but makes up for it in other ways. The mix here is somewhat muddled, with guitars that churn like butter, but not much of a setback since you will be focusing in on the endless stream of riffing. And to that extent, there are just enough quality guitar lines here to break the bank. Even when forgettable, the sheer force of the delivery is enough to ensure that any fan of extreme California thrash and speed of the 80s will appreciate this.

Highlights: Burning from Within, Berserker, Do or Die


Unrelenting Aggression - 85%

cotarelo, September 7th, 2009

Viking tour through the ashes of Kreator -endless pain-, Slayer -reign in blood- and Dark Angel -darkness descends-, to create metal with an assertive warlike spirit. An outburst of ragingly furious riffs with agitation vocals that strike at ultra fast speed like machine gun fire massacring innocent Christian victims. Straight forward pulsing muffled strum streams of frenzied mayhem killing all in sight; it is incendiary riot-thrashing metal!

This release is not superior to the aforementioned bands and albums, so one would have to ask the just question, why listen to this record if others had done the same thing more articulately? Well, because it is an ardent continuation of what the those greats initiated; a bellicose dissociation of the humanistic agenda of Judeo-Christianity although with less musical composition skills. There was a time when metal was not a morally and politically correct genre and these guys savagely smash that truth in your face.

This style falls in the speed metal, ( definition for what the rest of the world knows as thrash metal) category with tinges of early death metal from Slayer and Sodom. In other words, thrash metal with death metal overtones but not its structural aspects. Blazingly fast guitars fire muffle strum chromatic riffs in a constant flow of high-speed motion, charging onwards with full conviction. Occasionally abruptly stopping for a mid-song break to then unleash a pyrotechnical solo duet. Solos are short but lightning fast note-bent squeals that tie the chorus with the next verse with electric piercing brutality. Drums follow a typical double-hit rampage pounding that chases the guitars through the song while underneath steadfast double bass gives depth to all the percussive non stop violence. Vocals are riot shouts that have both a Tom Araya tone mixed with the guy from Exhorder in the higher notes. Instrumentation is basic but passionately feral. All this music is unstoppable, aggressive virulent thrashing noise.

Lyrics are vicious vociferations of death sentence to all that might fall under the swing of an axe or a striking sword. They got their inspiration from the idea of the Viking super-human that asserts its will over all the Christianized peoples by war and violence. Although they seem less intelligent when they go full on psychopathic, to me their music shows a life view where war and killing is not an absolutist bad doing; a unique position that only metal espouses, heartfelt metal that is. Here I see an intention to compose the most straight to the point thunderous metal of the late 80s bathed in blasphemy and devotion to the music they not only emulate but love. Not groundbreaking but honest and with soul.

The overall feel of the album is a ferocious linear musical assault with little variety on emotion or tempo change that might result monotonous, but each track in intent is a menacing slab of sonic weaponry for the delight of those insane head-bangers that enjoy manic metal right before death metal stormed the world.

I'm sorry, but I must disagree... - 87%

CHRISTI_NS_ANITY8, September 15th, 2008

Wrongly know mostly for having in the line-up a future member of Dark Angel, the guitarist Brett Eriksen that would have joined the band for Time Does Not Heal, these thrashers should be remembered also for the music they put out with this violent album that surely added something in brutal thrash metal field. The inevitable influences came directly from bands like Dark Angel and Slayer but somehow they were close also to bands like Demolition Hammer (that would have debuted on 1990) and Sacrifice from Canada; just to cite a few of them and try to give you the right idea of the genre in question.

This album develops its fury through 30 minutes of hyper fast and destructive brutal thrash metal that at times can be seen as a sort of death/thrash style in old German style, like for Kreator and Sodom. “Warlord” is already truly fast. The rolls on the snare drum are pounding and the up-tempo section starts immediately. The riffs are simple but incredibly powerful and literally full of palm muting parts. The speed at the instruments seems to be the really important component for this band. The verses and the chorus are anyway quite well recognizable. The production is not great but seems to me that I’m the only one who loved it. It conserves that 80s rawness that a furious thrash metal album should have.

The band is very good at the tempo changes, anyway, and also during the various up-tempos. The solos are just brutal. There’s no melody at all, like in the rhythmic riffs too. All has been conceived to be as brutal as possible and the comparisons to Darkness Descends are right but what I don’t understand are the comments by my fellow reviewers. Ok, it’s almost unvaried thrash metal in its burden of devastation and anger but I wish more albums were like this nowadays. You can complain about this Do Or Die but don’t complain also for the modern releases, saying that they lack of aggression and passion. Do Or Die is a thrash metal album and to me it’s good.

It’s not important if the resemblance to other efforts is so evident. What counts is the music and if you liked the masterpieces in this genre, I don’t why you can’t love also this one. It’s not at the same level but manages to keep always a great level of brutality and nastiness. Check also “Prelude-Scavenger” and tell me if it’s not very good. The speed metal and the thrash metal collide perfectly. The singer has always great vocals part and they are always raging and a bit less raspy for a brutal thrash metal band. They are quite similar to the ones by Reinhart in Leave Scars album.

“Valhalla” is remarkable for the crescendo of speed. The beginning is mid-paced and the bass drum increases the speed is some parts to return slower after the refrain. This song is pure energy, especially in the furious parts by the end. After the malevolent assault of the rabid “Burning From Within” we can notice a future Dark Angel riff in “Berserker” after few seconds and it’s the one in “Time Does Not Heal”. The rest is on total speed and very good even if a bit repetitive. The band, anyway, is good to put out quite energetic and never unexciting parts achieving the goal of composing truly violent pieces of hell.

Also the title track has at the beginning a guitars duet that is very similar to the one we could have find is “A Subtle Induction” song on Time Does Not Heal. Overall, I must partially disagree with the other reviews because I enjoyed this album. Surely Brett would have been far better with Dark Angel but this album is good too. As I said, it’s not a masterpiece but it’s almost mandatory to every brutal thrash lover.

Not much wrong with this forgotten piece - 80%

morbert, October 3rd, 2007

Of course one can hear the obvious Slayer and Dark Angel influences. Hardly surprising that guitarist Brett Eriksen would later prove to be a more than adequate replacement for Dark Angel’s Jim Durkin in 1989 for the man can seriously shred. Viking’s originality however is non-existent. Also the production is far from good. But that about wraps up the negative aspects of this album. There are plenty of other bands that are not original and release an under-produced album that does well. In this case I do not care about those two arguments because the song material is good.

The aggression is here, the production might damage it slightly, but the aggression is really present. Fast pace, some slower moments, loads of riffs, catchiness and energetic vocals. What more do you want from an underground thrash metal album? Enough said I assume. With tracks such as ‘Warlord’, ‘Militia Of Death’, ‘Scavenger’ and ‘Do Or Die’ a real thrash metal collector will have enough reasons to pick up this album for a few euros, yuan or yen if they find it. If you’re into early Slayer and Dark Angel (1984-1987), be sure to keep your eyes open for this one if you don’t care much about originality.

Good effort, but extremely repetitive - 63%

Human666, March 20th, 2007

This is a pretty tough album, the riffs are snappish like a buzzsaw, the drumming is merciless and the lyrics fits themselves to the music, violent and brutal, so does the cover art of the album. It's a pretty enjoyable album half of the time, but I won't lie and say this is a really good album because it has too much downs among the better tracks.

The first couple of tracks are extremely straightforward and intense. Blazing vocals and killer riffs which keeps on interest for each moment and makes you headbang like a maniac. Then "Militia Of Death" begins a bit slowly but it gains speed after 30 seconds or so, it has a brutal and catchy chorus and all in all it's a good song, but less attractive then the former tracks. The fourth track begins with an average prelude and then the first verse begins. It's a kick ass song but not too much, it reminds me a bit Slayer in a less intense mood. Pretty good song except the unnecessary intro which doesn't develops to anything and only wasting minute and half.

From now this album becomes repetitive and boring with a shitload of casual riffs and the aggressive mood of the former tracks slowly fading, all these tracks are dull and sounds exactly the same, just drags on till the last track. Now, "Do Or Die" is the closing track and also the title track of this album. This is easily the best track here due to his catchy chorus and flawless riffs, and nice tempo break in the middle. Killer ending after a filler shredding, that's improve a bit this album.

So, if there weren't so much fillers and if they weren't improvising the lead guitar 2 minutes before recording, that's could be an outstanding debut and awesome album...but it isn't.

Bring up the rear end of thrash - 37%

UltraBoris, February 20th, 2004

This album REALLY wants to be Darkness Descends. Unfortunately, the production is shit, and this doesn't mean it sounds all raw and necro, it means that the riffs are indiscernable and the vocals are far the fuck too loud in the mix. So what tries to be lethal thrash ends up being "awful speedcore" at best. They try playing really fucking fast, and they do, but it's all a blur. Burning of Sodom, this is not.

There are a few decent thrash moments. The opener, "Warlord", is a pretty decent impersonation of Darkness Descends, featuring vocals that sound a bit like Don Doty, and a thrash break at the end that reminds one of "Perish in Flames". Then, unfortunately, the next two songs are pretty much the epitome of "awful speedcore". Imagine "Hang the Pope" dragged out for nearly three minutes, with everyone just trying to play as fast as possible. There is a thrash break in Hellbound, but it's not a particularly great one. And another problem with this album: the louder you turn it up, the worse it sounds. That's a NO for heavy metal!

Finally, around "Scavenger" we get a real fucking thrasher. A winner is this one, including a Slaughter "Not Dead Yet"-like middle section combined with "Haunting the Chapel" in the verses. Awesome, the highlight of the album by far. Then, Valhalla is also a bit more controlled, and would be pretty good if not for the gang chorus being about 12 decibels far too loud.

Surprisingly, the second half of the album is overall better than the first. There isn't the anonymous br000tality of the second and third songs, though it still isn't particularly GOOD. Burning from Within goes back to the speedcore stuff, but somehow it's a bit better. Maybe it's because the vocals aren't quite so loud. Oh yes, the solos are downright awful. They make the final solo in Angel of Death seem like fucking Painkiller. But Berserker is a decent song, and features a subtle riff that would later reappear on Time Does not Heal! Ha! Competent thrash when all is said and done. Again, it's because they don't play really fucking fast. Killer Unleashed has a little intro, and then it's back to the kinda generic fast stuff. And finally, Do or Die takes a little bit of the Necrophiliac/Raining Blood riff style, and then turns into a decently cool thrasher, with a nice middle break - Death is Certain, Life is Not!!

Again, this is pretty much what Darkness Descends would be if Darkness Descends sucked. Kind of a fun album to listen to every once in a while, but don't pay too much attention to it, because there isn't much there.