"No Child Left Behind" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US, Los Angeles, California based thrash metal act Viking. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in March 2015. Viking was initially active in the years 1986-1990 and released the two albums "Do or Die (1988)" and "Man of Straw (1989)" during that period. After the band split-up guitarist Brett Eriksen joined Dark Angel, bassist James Lareau pursued a career in sculpture, and lead vocalist/guitarist Ron Eriksen and drummer Matt Jordan moved to Oregon. The former of the two latter mentioned later became a bible teacher. In early 2011 Ron Eriksen ressurrected Viking. He was initially joined by drummer Gene Hoglan (Dark Angel, Strapping Young Lad, Testament, Fear Factory...etc.), bassist Mike Gonzalez (Dark Angel), and guitarist Justin Zych (Valhalla, Zephaniah, Vindicator), which made Eriksen the sole original member. This lineup recorded the basic tracks for "No Child Left Behind" in 2011, but the album wasn´t completed until 2014. In the meantime original drummer Matt Jordan had replaced Gene Hoglan.
It may have been 26 years since the release of "Man of Straw (1989)", and Ron Eriksen has grown those years older too, but other than the fact that "No Child Left Behind" is delightfully old school, it´s not apparent that Viking hasn´t been active for many years. The delivery of the material is professional, passionate, and very convincing. Ron Eriksen is a skilled vocalist with a strong voice, who can perform both raw vocal parts and more melodic tinged ditto. While he is not as distinct sounding as Russ Andersson (Forbidden), I´d say that´s a valid reference. Stylistically the music on the album sounds something like a combination of 1988 Forbidden and 1986 Dark Angel. The aggression and fast tempos of the latter and the semi-technical and melodic tinged nature of the former.
The songwriting is generally strong, and there are many catchy tracks featured on the album. I can mention tracks like "Blood Eagle", "Eaten by a Bear", and "Wretched Old Mildred", but there´s not a single sub standard track on the album. "No Child Left Behind" also features a rather powerful and raw sound production. The drum production took some getting used to, but the sound overall suits the music well.
It´s not everyday you hear a comeback album as potent as this one, and Viking deserves a lot of praise for this release. They have stayed true to their roots without sounding too old fashioned (mainly due to the occasional more contemporary sounding riff, and the sound production), and they´ve written some pretty damn catchy and aggressive thrash metal tracks, that should please fans of the genre. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.