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Overkill: The Years Of Decay - 100%

MetalManiaCometh, May 10th, 2020
Written based on this version: 1989, CD, Megaforce Records (US)

After three albums come and gone; Overkill comes out of the gates in 1989 creating what many people would call their greatest album and one of the greatest thrash albums of all time; “The Years Of Decay”. Do I share those same sentiments? I’m half and half with those statements. I do believe this is one of the greatest achievements in the thrash genre but I will say that I don’t believe this album is their best; it’s a close second as there is just ONE album that edges it out and I will explain that in the next Overkill review (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

After touring the world and the states for their previous release, “Under The Influence”; Overkill came back into the recording session with a powerful passion and an aggressive fury cumulating into “The Years Of Decay”. The best way to describe my thoughts about this album at first listen is that Overkill took all the positives from their previous three releases and swept away the negatives found on those albums. “The Years Of Decay” exhibits an evolution for the band where the thrashy aggression, melodic riffs, and technicality are all boiled down to equal levels with one another into a neat little package. Everything just works on this album; from the thrashier and speedy moments in songs like “Elimination”, to the mid-paced songs such as “Who Tends The Fire”, and to the slower doom / Black Sabbath influenced songs like “Playing With Spiders / Skullcrusher”: it just works. Hell even the title song, “The Years Of Decay”, being a ballad is done perfectly and there’s very few thrash acts that can do a great ballad.

Production wise; “The Years Of Decay” is absolutely a giant jump in quality from their previous releases. Everything sounds crisp and tight from the instruments to Blitz’s vocals having equal footing. Nothing sounds soft or flat on this record as the sound just punches you right in the teeth. You can almost feel your teeth rattle when listening to “Skullcrusher” or “Birth Of Tension”. We can thank that crispy, punchy sound to the great Terry Date who I consider to be one of the best producers within the metal community. There’s not much to say about the production honestly, it’s just very well done.

From a writing standpoint I feel like “The Years Of Decay” is the best of three worlds as everything that’s been done before just combine together along with some newer elements that wasn’t present before. The introduction of a ballad and the slow doom influenced melody’s create a breathe of fresh air in the album to help round out the high and mid-tempo thrashing going on. Honestly out of all the thrash bands, if their is one band that does doom metal and Black Sabbath influenced music the best, that would be Overkill. The music is also longer compared to the previous LPs as the band uses that time to set the atmosphere.

“Playing With Spiders / Skullcrusher” is the ultimate ten minute epic biker doom metal song while “Who Tends The Fire” gives us a slow paced chugging throughout a majority of the runtime as the music is focused around D.D.’s bass. “The Years Of Decay” exhibits another new element as Overkill attempts their first ballad, and succeeds. The song itself is thick of dark atmosphere and as the song changes from a sad slow paced setting into a heavier mid-paced tempo; everything clicks into place creating what I deem as one of the best ballads from a thrash metal band. Speaking of dark atmosphere; that honestly just summarizes the whole feel of the album that is present throughout. We still have our speedy thrash songs like “I Hate”, “Time To Kill”, the chaotic “E.vil N.ever D.ies”, and one of their classic songs in their live set; “Elimination”.

Overkill also fills the cracks with mid-tempo songs such as “Nothing To Die For” and “Birth Of Tension” to round out the rest of the album. Lyrically the album is very much different from what the wrecking crew has covered as there is less focus on things like sex or the metal lifestyle and deal more into personal topics like terminal disease, abuse, anger, and depression while still talking about the typical metal topics such as serial killers. Everything from the lyrics to the riffs remain catchy and sticks to your brain. Overkill just knows how to craft a song that sounds sonically pleasing to the ears.

As for our lineup we still have everyone from the previous record which includes Blitz, D.D., Gustafson, and Sid. To begin, when I covered “Under The Influence” I talked about how I felt that since Sid just came in after the co-creator and drummer, Rat Skates, left the band that Sids playing felt very average and safe while the writing for the drums also played it safe. Well that need to play it safe and the average drumming is left behind and Sid offers some of the best drumming that the band has ever gotten on a studio album. Sid is precise and on point; offering us many different tempo changes while keeping everything tight. Add in the fantastic production that gives the drums a great sound that smashes your ears and you got Sid Falck on “The Years Of Decay”.

D.D.’s slick bass is even more present here while songs like “Nothing To Die For” and “Who Tends The Fire” shows off his skills. His bass just sounds absolutely fantastic here as his picking nicely intertwines with the rest of the lineup. Moving on to Blitz; he finally finishes off what I call his “final form” for his voice as this is where everything has lead up to be and what has remained since. Blitz brings back some of his operatic vibes in “The Years Of Decay” and even getting down with some Ozzy influences in “Who Tends The Fire”. Honestly it’s just a perfect performance which is something Bobby can’t do less of. Everything from his infectious screams to his raspy snarls to his slow clearer singing just fits exactly with the instrumentation and atmosphere that the album has.

Finally let’s talk about the last man of the album which would be his final album with the band, Bobby Gustafson. As somebody who views his work and style to be very underrated in the metal scene; this album is the perfect cumulation of his work. The riffing, the solos, the melodies; just everything is all perfect. You can’t help not to headbang to any of these songs. Gustafson experiments a lot on this album and it works as the the use of slower doom metal and Black Sabbath influences really round up this album better than what most thrash bands were doing in the 80s. From the atmospheric soloing in “The Years Of Decay” to the bluesy riffing in “Who Tends The Fire” to the down right chaotic soloing and riffing in “E.vil N.ever D.ies”; Bobby just manages to jam pack everything that makes a great guitarist which is power, style, and most important of all; catchiness. For a final album, this hits all the notes that you could possibly want and Bobby left on high and luckily not a low.

Overall, “The Years Of Decay” is a force to be reckoned with. There are very few albums from other thrash metal bands that have reached this quality in terms of power, speed, and originality. I honestly think it is one of the epitomes of the genre as it offers everything that makes a great thrash album but offers more than most give. If you got a thrash album that can perfectly create a doom metal song, a ballad, and a mixture of fast paced and mid-paced thrashers with this amount of skill and authority then come talk to me as there is very few that reach this quality. I don’t give out 100/100 or call albums masterpieces for any average joe album; those scores are reserved for albums that truly deserve that title and “The Years Of Decay” truly does deserve it.

The best album overkill have ever recorded - 95%

Twitch S S, May 9th, 2020
Written based on this version: 1989, CD, Megaforce Records (US)

This album is a masterpiece not just of thrash but of metal, this is the magnum opus that Overkill would never surpass. Many Overkill albums are very precise and consistent in their approach, often full balls to the wall unapologetic thrash but this is different.

They dip in and out of so many styles, that to call it a thrash album is slightly disingenuous. Sure you have tracks like Elimination which is pure thrash but then you have Skullkrusher (black sabbath inspired Doom), I hate (punk), Years of Decay (the ballad of the album but possibly the best ballad ever recorded by a thrash band..... Prisoner of Fate by Heathen is a strong contender), Who Tends the Fire (with its very eerie atmosphere). You get the picture, this is not the run of the mill Overkill.

Everyone is on point, this would be be Gustafsons final record as lead guitarist for Overkill. I am not sure why he left the band but based upon his influence on this record I guess there were differences in the direction members wanted to take musically. This album is much more like the approach Metallica were taking under Cliff Burton. Longer tracks with more changes in the music and more scope to look further afield than just thrash. Maybe the rest of the band wanted after this record to go more thrash with a capital T because the longer more varied songwriting was replaced by more straight edge thrash metal and maybe Gustafson wanted to continue to experiment. Either way I am am assuming out loud but the leads and rhythm guitars recorded by Gustafson are fantastic. Personally I would love it if Overkill would do another album like this with a little experimentation. I love their consistent know what you are going to get sound but just sometimes it is nice to hear other talents as well, especially when an album like this has showcased what else they can do when they choose to.

Blitz is spitting fire as you would expect if you have ever heard him perform. His signature rasp and pissed off vocal is very much present letting off only a little during the softer sections in the title track. His vocals are certainly not to everyone's taste and probably the thing that would turn most people off from the band, much like how some people love Megadeth's music but hate Mustaine's style of "singing". The bass and guitars fill out the sound well, not often doing anything out of this world but what they are doing is strong. Obviously being a 1989 recording the sound quality can at times feel a little soft by today's standards, though despite that the record still manages to sound full.

As much as people like to take the piss out of Metallica they certainly had an influence on their peers at the time. I am not sure if this album would exist in the way it does if Metallica had not been releasing similar albums if the years before. Hell the riff and melody in Nothing to die for sounds like it would fit on .... and Justice For All almost perfectly only here we have a bass guitar and E.vil N.ever D.ies has an intro that is almost certainly inspired by that of the Metallica track Damage Inc. My point is even the great thrash bands wear influence clearly.

The closest to beating this album Overkill would come to bettering this album wouldn't be until 2010's Ironbound but that also just falls short.

Years of Decay and Who Tends the Fire are the two incredible tracks here, not just because they are great tracks but because they show a side to Overkill they rarely show.
E.vil N.ever D.ies

Gotta Get a Grip, Here's the Facts! - 99%

FacUtGaudeam, November 14th, 2019

The production on this record is something I very much enjoy, similar to Testament's "The Legacy" in a way, in that it's quiet and warm, especially in comparison to Overkill's modern output. While this album isn't the one I'll blast on full volume like I would Horrorscope or Ironbound, Overkill isn't necessarily my go-to thrash band for that anyway. This is a record that's great for driving, doing homework, or just sitting down to listen or play along to. The production combined with the doom-influence makes this a record that can put me to sleep (which should be a bad thing for a thrash album, but it's not) if I'm tired. However, make no mistake, the actual music on here is seething with energy and rage. Bobby Blitz sounds as pissed off as before, yet more musical than on Under the Influence. DD's bass is chugging along with swagger in the background, Gustafson is nailing riff after nasty riff and shreddy yet tasteful solos, and Sid Falck does very well, adding some pizzazz with the time changes on most of the songs.

That brings me to why this album is Overkill's best: it's their most ambitious effort to date, it has the most variety, and it has the best songwriting. We've got epic intros, doomy dirges, ridiculous changes of tempo and wacky stop-and-goes, acoustic balladry, punk anthems, straight-up thrashers, and progressive, strange time-signature riffs. While Overkill always show up ready to kick ass, they do it especially masterfully on this one. It may not be their heaviest (which is due mostly to production), but it has the most complex, yet memorable songs that the band has written. I can point to the whirling, changing time signatures on "Nothing to Die For." Or the sudden changes on "Birth of Tension." The catchiness, speed, and aggression of "I Hate" and "Elimination." And I'm a sucker for ballads by thrash bands (when they're done right), so of course I dig the title track.

If you care about the lyrics (which I usually don't), the message of this album may be discerned by synthesizing elements from different songs. "Time to Kill" paints a picture of a society which is suffocating in various ways, through religion and other means. "Elimination" and "I Hate" are the existential angst and consequent response this toxic society breeds. "Nothing to Die For" represents the ensuing disillusionment with the society. The songs, "Playing with Spider/Skullcrusher", "Who Tends the Fire", and "The Years of Decay" are a quasi-philosophical realization that one can choose to live one's life for oneself, or continue to be a pawn of the contemptuous society. "Birth of Tension" and "E.vil N.ever Dies" are third-person observations of how the toxicity of the society is created, rather than first-person reactions such as "Elimination" and "I Hate." Particularly, Skullcrusher presents a compelling question, posed in the form of of motorcycle riding, but applicable to anything, about the line drawn between getting one more thrill out of something, possibly risking death in the process, while simultaneously recognizing that if one doesn't do it, they will die anyway ("What the hell, take a chance... when you're dead you never make a sound"). I'll wrap this lyrical exploration up by noting the abrupt ending of "E.vil N.ever Dies," which illustrates the lack of satisfaction or effectiveness in putting down evil; it will always come back, and be just out of the grasp of justice.

Many have accused Overkill of plagiarism on this record, particularly on the song "Elimination," in which the riff sounds similar to the the second intro riff in "Master of Puppets." Being that I love this album and Overkill is an iconic band, I feel obligated to come to Overkill's defense. While I admit that there is similarity here, the reality is that this is a certain type of thrash riff that many other bands such as Exodus or Sepultura have used that involves constant down-picking and a foot-tapping rhythm. In fact, Overkill used another down-picked, mid-to-fast-paced chuggy riff on their debut with the fan-favorite "Rotten to the Core." Feel the Fire was released in 1985, a year before Master of Puppets, which invalidates the notion that Overkill were simply stealing from Metallica. Sure, some may point to the pre-solo riff of "Seek and Destroy" or the chorus riff of "No Remorse" as having riffs of this type, but the palm-muting was less pronounced (possibly due to the production), and I'm willing to give Overkill the benefit of the doubt that, given the vast difference in sound between "Kill 'Em All' (much more NWOBHM-influenced) and "Feel the Fire," (much more punk-influenced) Overkill were not plagiarizing on that record. Another contention of plagiarism from the Master of Puppets album is that the final track has a prolonged ambient intro just like Damage, Inc. However, the tone of the Damage, Inc. intro is much happier, almost sounding like I'm taking a nap on a sunny afternoon, while E.vil N.ever Dies' intro is ominous and suspenseful, and has faint whale-like murmurs in the background. The intros are so different, that at this point, I think E.vil N.ever Dies' intro bears more similarity to Bathory's nearly always-present "The Winds of Mayhem."

The most I'd be willing to admit is that Overkill merely took the idea of slapping an ambient intro on the last song of the album from Master of Puppets. But more evidence for the originality of this record overall lies in its doominess compared to its thrash contemporaries. Maybe South of Heaven comes close, but Overkill slowed it down way more on songs like "Skullcrusher" and "The Years of Decay", and I hear a lot of similarity to Candlemass on the song "Who Tends the Fire." Another thing Overkill was doing that most of its contemporaries were not (well, maybe Metallica on Dyer's Eve) was the oddball starts, stops, and tempo changes on "Time to Kill,' "Birth of Tension," and "E.vil N.ever Dies." All of these factors, in addition to the always instantly recognizable vocals of Bobby Blitz and the unique soloing approach of Bobby Gustafson (on his last album with the band) not only make this Overkill's best work, but also prove that it was original.

With what I have said, it may seem like I think Overkill can do no wrong on this record. Yet, I only gave it a 98%. While it's one of my favorite thrash albums of all time, it's still not my favorite of 1989, as there's just a few minor faults with the album. Namely, the first 40-50 seconds of the intro of "Time to Kill" is unnecessary and doesn't add anything to the song, the title track's reprise is a bit dull, and "Who Tends the Fire" is average until the fast mid-section comes in. That said, every other song on this album is just about perfect, and these songs combined with the parts I do like of the aforementioned songs make this a stellar album. This was my first Overkill album (hence why I'm reviewing it first), as I would suspect it was for most Overkill fans who weren't around back in the day, given all the classics on this album. It's a true gem in Overkill's discography, and thrash metal as a whole, and I would advise giving it a listen if you haven't already. Or even if you have, I would advise listening to it again, because I guarantee you that there's some new subtlety that will hit you on the next listen.

Evil never dies and neither will Bobby Blitz - 92%

CuddlySilverback, August 17th, 2017

The Years of Decay is a strange album in the massive and noteworthy discography of Overkill. The legendary New Jersey thrash band was coming off their 1988 release; and while Under the Influence is another solid product, it didn't build off their two previous albums. The Years of Decay is comprised of classic Overkill tracks intermingled with some more experimental ones. The risks taken on this album were necessary to stay in contention with the thrash heavyweights such as Metallica, Slayer, Exodus and so on. By 1989, Metallica had released the groundbreaking Master of Puppets and then further demonstrated their progession in sound through ...And Justice For All. Metallica sat on top of the metal world and I can only assume that must have ticked Bobby "Blitz" off a tad considering Overkill was one of the earliest thrash bands to form and was constantly overlooked. Bobby is menacing on TYOD, his raspy vocals and piecing shrieks give so much energy. He genuinely sounds pissed off as he gives the performance of a lifetime. I can't say I've ever heard another vocalist sound so incensed and yet having so much fun at the same time. This album is Overkill's response to Master of Puppets, the band was determined to surpass them using their brand of punk inspired thrash.

I've listened to The Years of Decay many times and the enjoyment I experience has never diminished, it's easily one of my favorite albums to play over and over again. The first half of the album starts out as one would expect from a punk influenced thrash band, with fast, short and aggressive tracks that have the sole purpose to get your fists pumping and rip your face off. Excluding the opening track, these songs stay in the 3-4 minute range, the highlights being "Elimination" and "I Hate". Both tracks serve as catchy combative anthems and are perfect to listen to when you're feeling down. One might notice that the main riff from "Elimination" is reminiscent of the main riff from "Master of Puppets", in fact, you could say that Overkill lifted this riff and gave it their own unique spin. As I alluded earlier in my review, I believe that The Years of Decay is the East Coast response to Master of Puppets. Other tracks are comparable to the ones featured on MOP and the song arrangement is eerily similar.

Getting back to the review, after the first four tracks we see a drastic change in tone and style for Overkill. In the middle of album is the behemoth track "Playing with Spiders/Skullkrusher". This ten minute epic is the center piece of the album and serves as the bridge to the first and second half. The heavy, doom-like riffs of this track are incredible and evocative of Black Sabbath's early work. If I had a compliant, it would be the length of the song. When it comes to punk influenced bands, longer tracks are difficult to pull off since the riffs are very straightforward and often don't have the room or ability to evolve. One might find that this song becomes repetitive and could be accomplished with half the runtime. It's a fair point but I never found the length of the song (nor the album for that matter) to be an issue. Clocking in at nearly a full hour, The Years of Decay exceeds the runtime of the typical thrash album. Whether or not you believe the longer tracks over stay their welcome ultimately depends on your opinion of Bobby "Blitz". His high-pitched shrieks and raspy growls are constant throughout the album; I personally find his energy to be infectious and his vocal range makes him one of the finest in thrash. Yet, not everyone feels the same way and if Bobby isn't your cup of Joe then its understandable that the longer tracks are going to annoy you.

The second half of the album kicks off with possibly my favorite tracks, "Birth of Tension". Getting back to their bread and butter, this is a very thrashy track and Bobby "Blitz" really emotes the feeling of anger and frustration. Two longer tracks follow, "Who Tends the Fire" and the title track. Both are around the 8 minute mark and with exception to the plodding intro for WTTF, they are fantastic tracks showcasing the ability and range of this band. The title track in particular is impressive, it starts out slow, resembling ballad, with Bobby showing off his more melodic vocal style. "The Years of Decay" reminds me of "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" from MOP, they both start slow with a somber tone before ratcheting up the intensity by the end. Notably, there is some very nice riff work displayed by Bobby Gustafson on this track. Throughout the album, Gustafson treats the listener to a variety of neat riffs and intricate solos. Upon my first listen, I wasn't aware that TYOD only featured one guitarist and that made me appreciate the album even more; somehow the band managed to sound lager than life with only three musicians. The quality of the production should be credited to the legendary Terry Date, all the instruments have a clear and imposing sound. I love that I can distinctly hear D.D. Verni's bass throughout each track. Verni does a masterful job, as usual, intertwining his bass with Gustafson's guitar. Sid Falck is a more than competent drummer and while he may not be the driving force on this album, he certainly doesn't do anything to diminish its quality.

The album finishes off with yet another great thrasher, "E.vil N.ever D.ies". I believe this was the final piece to the Overkill saga before being reintroduced later; regardless, the track and is a perfect finish to a legendary record. Gustafson has a sweet solo near the end that I believe is criminally overlooked. For my final thoughts on TYOD, I view this as the standout album in Overkill's nearly four decade career. I can't say its unequivocally their finest work but I regard this album highly for being experimental. Overkill fans like myself are complacent when Overkill stays true to their sound but Bobby and the boys had the brass balls to change up a few things up. History has shown that departures from your classic sound and style can backfire but they managed to pull it off. Every track is vicious and purposeful, my only critique would be that some fat could have been cut off on the runtime. I can't recommend this album enough, even if you're not a fan of Overkill, its essential listening for any thrash aficionado.

Overkill: The Years of Decay - 57%

Never_Enough, July 1st, 2016
Written based on this version: 1989, CD, Megaforce Records (EU)

The term "Overrated" is often abused these days. Whether if they're referring to movies, music, or video games, there will always be an asshole claiming that something is overrated just because they don't enjoy that particular thing very much. Nothing is inherently overrated. You just don't like something as much as the majority of people do. Your feelings come less from the actual thing and more so from the opinions of others. Yet the term is eschewed into being given more meaning. People also seem to have forgot that overrated doesn't necessarily equate to bad. I try not to use the term. However, I can't think of any other word that perfectly describes The Years of Decay. To me, it's mediocre and no one seems to agree with me.

Let's start out with the positive side of this album, shall we? Bobby Blitz is giving a killer performance on here. His unique, ear-piercing, shrieks perfectly compliment the instrumentation and allow him to sing at breakneck speed. Most thrash metal vocalists tend to sing at pace close to the tempo of the song. However, Bobby is able to subdivide his vocals tempo to match the speed of the guitars as oppose to the rhythm section. His vocal style gives him great flexibility, so it doesn't sound like he's going to pass out. He doesn't just stick to that method though. He can go deeper in his range while adding in some rasp to his voice. Hell, I'd be lying if I told you that he didn't give his best performance on this album. His vocals on here cement him as one of the best vocalists of thrash metal. Don't get me wrong , I can see why someone might despise his vocals. I mean, Why would anyone like hearing a man get his testicle caught in a garlic press? Call me a sadist, but that's exactly why I like Bobby's vocals.

The positives don't just start and end with the vocals though. Bobby Gustafson gives some excellent solos on this album. He's less about catchy riffs and more about the shred. Most of the riffs off this album are hard-hitting, but aren't the most expertly crafted. Bobby's solos more than make up for it though. Play to your strengths, I guess. D.D. Verni's bass playing is also something to be amazed by. He creates these beautiful licks and interweaves them into the songs. It plays off Bobby's guitar nicely and establishes a powerful low end to the music. All of this is enhanced by the production. Generally, It's a rule of thumb that the production doesn't make an album, but instead enhances the overall sound. I'm not an audiophile myself, but even I have to give credit where credit is due. The album is able to sound big while only having four members. The band's got some big names behind the engineering like Jon Zazula and Terry Date. I've always been a fan of Terry Date's production style even if his name is attached to some nu metal excrement like Limp Bizkit and Staind.

Like I alluded to before, I still think this album is bad. The biggest problem to my mind is the songwriting. There are tons of moments were the lyrics are awkwardly executed and sometimes ruin the whole song. Like the track "Time to Kill" revolves around this theme of a serial killer obsessed with the concept of time. For one, inserting the phrase everywhere in the song with only slight differences isn't clever. Second, lines like, "Violent indecision, Surge of mass religion" relate in no way to the topic of the song. The song itself is satisfactory, but it's ruined by the lyrics. The lyrics on some songs are just plain fucking stupid. "I Hate" is a prime offender in this case. They just detail all the things that the song's protagonist hates in his daily life. The protagonist also tries really hard to sound incredibly simple-minded and hulk-like in his diction. Anyway, the composition of these songs suck ass as well. I love the song "Elimination", but did it need so many unnecessary passages and transitions. Songs like "Time to Kill" and "I Hate" will have intros that build-up to an astounding disappointment when the verses come in. They're not even properly fed into the verses. It's just turns on a fucking dime. Not only that, but some of the songs off The Years of Decay are too Goddamn long. "Playing with Spiders/Skullkrusher", "Who Tends the Fire", and the title track could've all been summed up in 5 minutes, but are stretched to the breaking point at 8-10 minutes. Look, I'm pretty fickle about long songs, so knowing that I'm going to have to sit through these behemoths multiple times sends shivers down my spine. Overkill aren't incredible songwriters. They can't pull off 10 minute long tracks and not expect people to get bored out of their minds.

Overall, I do not recommend The Years of Decay. It houses a handful of excellent songs like "Nothing to Die For", "Elimination", and "Birth of Tension". Besides that, the album is considerably dull and unnecessarily long at 56 minutes. The songwriting is weak which is a shame, because it's backed up with powerful instrumentation and vocals. I still can't comprehend how so many people claim that this is Overkill's best album. I'd choose Taking Over or Horrorscope long before I'd consider this as their best album. To put it simply, this album is overrated.

Shadow dancing without ninjitsu - 42%

BastardHead, October 20th, 2015

I promise I'll stop. I promise this is the last negative Overkill review. It's for my sake as much as yours, but their bad albums really got away with murder for the better part of a decade in terms of internet reviewing, and I simply aimed to right that wrong.

But BH! The Years of Decay is one of the good albums! You say so yourself that it's within the window of good music they made!

While yes, it's true that the rule of thumb that "every thrash band that was good in the 80s got shitty in the 90s" is just as applicable with Overkill, it's worth noting that they did have a stinker in the middle of their streak of classics. I know, I know, The Years of Decay is often considered one of their best, if not their unequivocal apex, but I just can't get behind it, and it's for reasons that didn't make full sense until the 00s rolled around. I've said it before, but thrash was never great because of Overkill, Overkill was great because of thrash, and it shows here. They were never blazing trails, they were never ahead of their time (because you and I know damn well they weren't playing "Rotten to the Core" back in 1979), the main reasons I ever felt like they stood out was because of DD's trebly bass tone, Blitz's wild haired shrieking, and the fact that they were (and still are) the most overtly punk influenced of all the classic thrash bands. Overkill's good albums are so good that it's easy to forget that they were always following trends.

Don't believe me? That's okay, you don't have to, but did you notice that their first two albums had heaps of influence from the NWOBHM scene? All the rough speed metal and overt melody was quite reminiscent of another classic thrash album from a few years prior (I'll give you a hint: it starts with "S" and ends with "how No Mercy"). Granted, that's sorta indicative of every early American thrash band excepting Exodus it seems, but did you notice that their groove phase started around the same time that Metallica had their famous sellout and Anthrax started focusing on hard groove instead of rollicking speed metal? Did you notice that coincidentally around the same time Megadeth stopped pandering to radio play so blatantly and started playing thrash-lite again, Overkill just so happened to do the exact same thing? Did you notice how they started playing full on thrash again only after Death Magnetic and Endgame came out and rethrash was in full swing and seemed to be at its apex?

The Years of Decay fits into this whole spiel because it's the exact same thing. They've been doing this for their entire career. Wherever American thrash was going, Overkill was following. Feel the Fire and Horrorscope are phenomenal albums so we tend to give them a pass, but I've always had something of a bone to pick with The Years of Decay. This? This is Metallica worship of the highest order, and it's hilarious because the venn diagram of "people who worship the ground Overkill walks on" and "people who do the same to Metallica" are damn near in separate countries, but it's true. Overkill's fourth album is loaded with Metallica-isms, from the structuring of the album, to the sudden inclusion of longer, slower, doomier songs with extended acoustic passages, to the production, to the actual riffs themselves, almost every note of this album carries the unmistakable scent of Metallica's trebuchet to fame.

Now I'm not gonna sit here and say that they're a bunch of unimaginative riff thieves, but I will say that it's probably not a coincidence that "Time to Kill" opens up almost exactly like "Battery" if it skipped the first two acoustic repeats and started right when the distortion started to follow the melody, and that "Evil Never Dies" starts with and extended intro of swelling strings nigh indistinguishable to those of "Damage Inc.", and that "Elimination" uses the exact same riff as "Master of Puppets", and et cetera et cetera ad infinitum. Overkill wasn't trying to "steal" anything, but they were clearly trying to replicate the success of Master of Puppets and And Justice for All with this one. I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the similarities to Justice since it came out only a year prior to this one, but the parallels are there regardless. That's not to say this is a bad album because of these things, it's almost a bad album in spite of them, to be honest, but it's a bugaboo that's been driving me ape for years now.

I've always hated Overkill's attempts at gloominess, and the three 8+ minute songs are all stellar examples as to why. Either they just plod along for what feels like hours with nothing cool happening, or they hide a really god damned good riff or two in the middle of a weepingly agonizing snorefest. "Who Tends the Fire" rides on a simple groove that could work if it wasn't so repetitive and incessant, but near the four and half minute mark, the song just throws its gloves down and starting swinging for the fences. What the hell man? That part rules, that riff totally smokes, it's a great burst of thrash intensity burrowed in the middle of an otherwise mediocre and overlong groove song. "Playing With Spiders / Skullkrusher" drones on and on and on for ten torturous minutes, riding on a goddamn funeral thrash chug with absolutely no energy or power behind it, until over five minutes go by and it suddenly morphs into "Beyond the Black" by Metal Church. It's frustrating to sit through full song lengths of bland non-riffs before being treated to one incredible one in the bridge before the coda comes by to stink things up again, especially when there are song scattered around that prove the band's ability to keep things fresh and fun.

Yeah, the album isn't full of losers, there are plenty of things I like to be found here. "Evil Never Dies", despite being an east coast reimagining of "Damage Inc.", is one of the all time great Overkill songs. The main riffs are blisteringly fast and precise, with aggression pouring out of every riff with reckless abandon. The chorus just throws caution to the wind and blows everything away in a furious cyclone of vitriol, with Blitz bringing home one of his greatest performances with the stop start madness of "AS IT COMES! AWAKEN ME! IS IT DONE!". It sounds like his lungs are going to burst and his corneas are going to detach themselves, and I love every second of it. The bridge features one of the most crushing riffs the band would ever write, and the slow crescendo of malice with Blitz raining down a litany of abuse upon the subject of the song, climaxing with a near orgiastic release of venom, stands as my all time favorite moment in Overkill's entire discography (and that's keeping in mind that Feel the Fire is one of my all time favorite albums and every song on that one is a flawless classic). "I Hate" is a fantastic burst of punk energy, and "Elimination" is a thrash classic and live staple for a reason, with instantly memorable riffs and lyrics delivered with a malicious sneer. There are classic riffs and leads abound, and in a bubble there is a perfectly great six song EP hidden in here with three painfully overlong trainwrecks.

The problem is that, just as I said, it sorta needs to be viewed in a bubble, because the instant you apply the context of where thrash metal was in 1989, a lot of the genius starts to unravel. "Elimination", for as great of an anthem as it is, is just far too blatant with its influences. Yes, the main riff is the "Master of Puppets" riff. No, it's not different because it's slightly faster and two of the sixteen notes are different, that's the same fucking excuse Vanilla Ice used when he jacked the beat from "Under Pressure", don't give me that shit. Even the leads take liberal cues from the genre originators, with bits of the solos being lifted almost note for note from "Battery" and "Jump in the Fire". It's a nice touch to have a short burst of punk fueled aggression in the third track slot, but I mean, that's kinda what "Motorbreath" did. Sure, that could just be a coincidence, but when you consider that the first and last tracks are introduced and structured so similarly to their counterparts on Master of Puppets, AND the second track on each album starts with the same fucking riff, you start to look for the other similarities between the two records. "The Thing That Should Not Be" is replaced with "Skullkrusher", "Welcome Home" is replaced with "Who Tends the Fire", "Disposable Heroes" is shortened and replaced with "Birth of Tension", basically the only song that I never immediately drew a parallel back to the Bay Area stalwarts is "Nothing to Die For", and apart from a funky bass break that song stands as the clear filler track in terms of the six fast songs. Even little things like the precision in the sharp downstrokes that sound like Gustafson's right arm was replaced with a forty ton sewing machine just scream Hetfield to me. At this point maybe I'm just looking for things, but it's noticeable once you enter extreme nitpick mode and they're hard to ignore afterwards.

I know it probably seems like I'm calling this a copy of the legendary 1986 release, but I honestly don't think that's the case entirely. It's less like Overkill traced over a picture that Metallica drew, and more like them plugging in Overkill brand components into a template that Metallica originally drew up before switching some parts around and running with it. The riffs are like 90% Overkill, with only one glaring "homage" that stretches the definition to dangerous territory, the attitude is the inimitable Jersey swagger that Overkill always had, the vocals are worlds apart considering Blitz is probably the most instantly recognizable frontman in all of thrash, Sid Falck is obviously leagues ahead of Lars Ulrich in terms of percussion, it's a lot simpler and less ambitious, et cetera. There are plenty of differences, but the similarities are very strong, and it only reinforces my theory that wherever thrash was heading, Overkill was never the conductor. They were always a few cars back, usually being extremely good at whatever they're doing (the other four albums out of the first five illustrate this quite well), but always emulating what the bigger names in American thrash were up to. This in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing, since there are plenty of bands who take more than a little bit of influence from the classics and end up being great themselves, and Overkill really always had their own identity despite them always leisurely floating down the current. But The Years of Decay is living in the shadow of a much larger classic record, and it shows in the songs that sound like Overkill trying to do what Metallica did, instead of Overkill doing what they do best, like they did on Feel the Fire, Taking Over, and Horrorscope.

Originally written for Lair of the Bastard

Energetic yet controled - 95%

Superreallycool, October 7th, 2014
Written based on this version: 1989, 12" vinyl, Megaforce Records (US)

Overkill, underrated feels like the wrong word, as they're well known within the thrash community, but outside they are virtually unknown, which when compared to bands like Metallica, seems quite silly. Few bands have stayed a true to the course as Overkill have. The best part is, they stayed thrash, but they constantly experimented within the sub-genre. Some, such as Necroshine have been successful, others like I Hear Black have not, but Overkill has never been scared to try new things. However, there was a time where Overkill was a standard thrash band, and while they were a good standard thrash band, they didn't stick out all that much. This album is the album where they were experimental enough, but still thrashed hard, and where they became something special.

The album contains plenty of experiments, all of which are successes. The song "I Hate" is almost a mixture of regular Overkill and The Offspring, having a very pop punk aesthetic to it. The song "Playing With Spiders/Skullkrusher" is sludgy and very dynamic. However, with these experiments, there are regular thrash songs, but these rank among the best ever written. The song "Elimination" is an absolute classic, with a great riff, good chorus, and an awesome solo. Other songs such as "Time to Kill" are also great, and overall the album is consistent in quality. One odd moment, the title track is a ballad. It's a great song no doubt, but it kinda messes with the flow of the album, because right after it is another thrasher, "E.Vil N.Ever D.Ies". It's a minor complaint, but still worthy of mention, because the song is a whole 7 minutes, the length of two typical songs on the album.

It's hard to mention an Overkill album and not talk about Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth. His vocals are what will either make you love or loath Overkill. His more recent vocal style is more accessible, so if you're here because you've heard their hugely successful comeback albums, you're in for a surprise. Like Dave Mustaine, he is a bit of an acquired taste, only Bobby's vocals can take even longer to get used to. Personally, I think his vocals add charm to Overkill. Something that sets them apart from the crowd. Listen to some of their older songs and get a feel of how you like the vocals before you go out and buy this album.

In my opinion, this is Overkill's third best album (although most think it's their second or first) behind Horrorscope and White Devil Armory (I know it's new, but to me it's just magic). Bobby's vocals are still odd, and depending on who you are, they are either a selling point, or something that will make you stay clear of this band altogether. The band delivers ferocious music that is supported by a great production job. If you want to get into Overkill, this is not the place to start, but once you've listened to a bit of them, this album will quickly grow on you.

Old enough to know better, too young to care. - 80%

Diamhea, September 11th, 2013

While I still consider Horrorscope to be Overkill's best, I can find at least as many individuals who claim the group's 1989 opus The Years of Decay deserves the same accolade. While undeniably an ambitious undertaking following its very underwhelming predecessor Under The Influence, this album's experimental qualities tend to be the prime dividing line separating those who love the hell out of it, and those who feel it is a bit overrated.

I honestly can't apply myself to either camp entirely, as this is definitely an album I constantly find myself rolling my eyes to as much as banging my head. However, it goes without question that the album crashes out of the gates with three instant classics. "Time To Kill" may seem unusual with a running time of over six minutes, but you hardly notice, especially once the thrash break comes around about halfway in. "Elimination" and "I Hate" are both great outlets for Blitz's vocal onslaught, which just ooze attitude out of every proverbial pore. After this point, the album throws a number of curve-balls with a number of extremely long, progressive tracks. "Skullkrusher" is a slow, doomish affair, that honestly doesn't flip many of the right switches to my ears. The title track is another hit-or-miss number that really picks up during the final two minutes, but not enough to save it from mediocrity. My favorite track is "Birth of Tension", which has some great vocal lines and plenty of clinical thrashing to go around.

As stated above, Blitz really shines here. At this point in the timeline, his voice has achieved a perfect rasp that only seems present on The Years of Decay, as his inflection would take a darker turn on Horrorscope and continue in that vein thereafter. Not only is his voice great, the lyrics are a great listen as well, saving some of the more otherwise average cuts like "Nothing To Die For" from filler status. Constantly endearing and entertaining. DD Verni's presence is prominent, but some of his low-end bite is sacrificed to the unusually compressed production job; more on that later. Gustafson's swansong with Overkill really makes you wonder why the band decided to part ways with him a year later. In interviews he claims to have written the lion's share of the album, and while plenty of neck-jerking riffs abound, the solos are where he truly shines here. The long, melodic solo in "Elimination" essentially makes the song what it is, and the riff at the beginning of "Birth of Tension" seals the song's fate as a classic before it even begins. Sid Falck's drumming improved from his debut with the group, but the overly dry, snappy mix on the drums takes a lot away from his presence. Some impressive double-bass ebbs and flows throughout many of the tracks, so not a bad deal, but he would blow this performance away on Horrorscope

Terry Date's production job on this one reminds me of the overproduced nature of Under The Influence a year before. The guitars suffer the least out of the whole ordeal; but as stated before, everything sounds very pluggy and snappy, which doesn't necessarily hurt matters during some of the choppier riffing patterns. The atmosphere suffers as a whole during longer cuts like "Who Tends The Fire", which just audibly fizzle out prematurely, leaving this listener expecting more from such an ambitious and progressive performance (for the time). The Years of Decay is definitely one to check out, but be aware of the disparity between tracks, as the longer cuts definitely aren't for everyone. A classic? I would say no, not quite. Still a barnburner, however.

Eliminate The Weak, Eliminate The Strong!!! - 88%

Metal_Jaw, November 11th, 2012

The year is 1989. Thrash is starting to die. Metallica's "...And Justice For All" is being heralded as a masterpiece despite actually being over an hour of ongoing, bass-free dreck. We need some true thrash. WE NEED OVERKILL! Riding in from Hell a year after the uneventful "Under The Influence", Overkill unleashes "The Years of Decay", oft considered the band's end-all album and a monolith in tech-thrash. I don't totally agree; while this album is quite consistent and has some absolutley classic, killer songs, it isn't all perfect. A few bolts need tightening on here, a few skirts need shortening, that sort of thing. Let's take a look 'n' see what rocks and what could some home improvement...

For all intents and purposes the bandmates are in full form here, establishing on this album the Overkill we know today. Fucking Bobby Blitz man; he goes across all vocal ranges on "The Years of Decay", from soft singing on the title track and mid-ranged howls on "Skullcrusher" to the man's trademark screams on "Elimination" or "I Hate". We all love ya Blitz. Then we have Bobby Gustafson, here on his last Overkill album. For some reason I don't see his solos on here as complex or interesting as those on "Under The Influence", but his overall basic riffing is easily a few strong notches up. DD Verni's bass remains strong and bombastic on here, much more so than the last album. He gets to show off with a few killer fills and his fusion with Gustafson's guitar makes for a great rush of sound. Then Sid Falck comes back on drums and HOLY SHIT what happened to THIS guy?! In my review for "Under The Influence", I ragged on his skills for being mundane and pentatonic. Well maybe it's just because his drumming isn't mixed too high this time (the production overall has a dry, clean yet still heavy aura), but this dude improved vastly. His fills are much more precise, he makes use of far more brutal and complex arrangements, and let's loose nicely with the double bass when needed. Sid Falck's work here is easily one of the strongest improvements from a drummer I've ever from one album straight to the next.

"The Years of Decay" represents something of a tone shift for the band. Here we see songs that stay pretty serious in nature, and are written with more complex and intense structure. This creates songs that can be pretty epic (the average song on here runs anywhere from five to ten minutes). The album's atmosphere evokes a feeling of vastness and dark mood, even in the punchier, more aggressive tracks.

As I previously stated, the album ain't perfect. A few of the songs could use some filing down or even some different work done to them altogether, mainly in the more epic tracks as you can imagine. "Who Tends The Fire" relies too heavily on mood changes, losing momentum when it gets to the song's sharper and surprisingly semi-melodic riff attacks. The title track is a essentially a ballad, and aside from a bit of punch out of Mr Blitz, it's a fairly boring one. "Birth of Tension" and "Nothing To Die For" are a pair of more attacking thrashers, particularly the catchy latter song, but both ultimately prove to not leave much of a mark despite being initially enjoyable.

The other tracks are pretty goddamn good otherwise. The punishing doom metal epic "Skullcrusher" often splits fans down the middle and I notice quite a number of people deriding it on here. Personally I like the song; sure it's repetitive and rides on a nauseatingly-simple riff, but that speedier middle part is just great and I really dig the song's pounding heaviness that gets the mood dead on. Opener "Time To Kill" is a decent opener; not great but definitely a good start. This leaves us with three classics. First off: ELIMINATE! ELIMINAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATE!!! Oh yeah! "Elimination" is a ferocious but catchy and relentless thrasher that completely pummels this listener into dust in just over 4 1/2 minutes, not to mention it well-knowingly shanghais the "Master of Puppies" main riff and actually puts it to good use. Then we get the wonderful, punk-fueled little speeder "I Hate", in which we experience a grand melodic break, loads of shedding and Bobby Blitz relentlessly rattling away about anything and everything that pisses him off! Overkill may not be the fastest or heaviest band out there, but when it comes to individual songs, there is absolutely NOBODY more relentless when a song gets going! That leaves us with the grand, and I do mean grand, finale; the last part in the "Overkill" saga, "E.vil N.ever D.ies". It starts up with a tense and legitimately creepy intro that would easily make those guys who composed "Damage Inc." jealous. And after that intro, the song bursts into a runaway train of brutal double bass hammering and simplistic mosh riffage, then eventually some totally attacking shred solos and even a neat little reference to the song "Overkill" at the track's end. Congratulations, evil never dies!!!

Overall, some songs could use some work done, like some need for condensing and occasionally less focus on mood. But even if they're not great they're still mostly decent, while the rest of the pack are among some of Overkill's greatest songs and a real blast of a listen. Add it up with the band's stellar performances and you've got an album that, while not Overkill's greatest as many claim, is still really fucking awesome and easily one of the better thrash records to pop out of the ass-end of the 1980's.

Accurately branded, but it still kicks like a mule - 73%

autothrall, July 6th, 2012

Though I used to love the title of Overkill's fourth record when it was first released, and bought it day one at the mall, it's difficult not to look back at is as eerily prophetic of the material they'd excrete over the ensuing decades. Not that the New Yorkers ever stumbled as hard as the more popular Californian speed/thrash royalty like Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth, but there was this span of decades where the band was just not capitalizing on the promise of the first few albums, and it became a tiresome process to behold, especially when one compares it to their generally electrifying live gigs that have always been a pleasure to experience. For studio records, usually you could rely on about 1-2 decent tracks at most, and the rest to creep in and out of your memory like the sewer water Chaly was vaporizing on Under the Influence.

The Years of Decay was still a decent album, though, arriving right around the climax of the thrash genre (though some would argue it was years earlier than 1989), but it was sadly outclassed by a large swath of the field. The production here threw up a few red flags for me immediately, sounding even more constipated, sterile and processed than even Under the Influence had. Sure, the album LOOKS good, a leering and classy interpretation of their mascot character (and far from the last), but audibly it's inconsistent. The punchy tone applied to the guitars might seem adequate for neck jerking and moshing, but its very quickly outshone by the screaming of the vocals or the dextrous and popping bass lines, so that when a truly standout riff comes along like the clinical and chilling pre-verse pattern of "Nothing to Die For", I would always wonder why so many of the other tunes fell short. Granted, Overkill was a major label band trying with no qualms about modernizing itself, but there were quite a number of dull riffs throughout The Years of Decay which left a lot of the weight of its success on the shoulders of Bobby Blitz.

At the same time, this was an album where they felt comfortable enough to 'experiment' a little further than they had in the past. Thus the incorporation of tunes like the titular power ballad, featuring entire acoustic guitar verses and Blitz showing us his woozy emotional range (which admittedly isn't bad); or the entirely too dull Sabbath-doom opening moments of "Playing With Spiders/Skullkrusher", boasting one of the most boring and generic riffs you could have asked for in that particular niche, and a pretty lame and predictable bluesy/doom flow to the lyrics. Not the first time the band would play around in that particular sandbox, and they would again at least a dozen times on later efforts, but I must say that Overkill have never been very good at it. This group shines when they're rifling along at an energetic speed and Blitz is spitting vitriol at a thousand miles an hour, not when trudging along with effortless slow riffs that any awful bar band could conceive of in roughly 2 minutes. Fuck that noise. And while I admire that Blitz found a proving grounds here to flex his pipes towards a grand climax, "The Years of Decay" is littered with weak leads and wimpy metal riff patterns that don't really deserve the eventual chorus.

All this becomes dreadfully apparent at the presence of a song like "Elimination", which was precisely the Overkill I wanted! Thuggish testosterone riffing, freak ass lyrical patterns that fire off like psychotic ballistics and sound like they were amazingly fun to lay down in the studio, and a chorus that almost every other track on this record only wishes it could match. "I Hate" is another entertaining piece with lyrics a lot of thrashers could relate to, with a nice Maiden-esque intro riff, and then a heavy punk influence in the chorus riff and bridge, so it's no surprise to me that these are the most remembered here. Another song I quite enjoyed here was "E.vil N.ever D.ies", its charging and chugging guitars sounding like the bastard children of Master of Puppets, but also some great and ominous bass lines, spooky guitar melodies and a great chorus (recanting the once-clever title) overcome some of the weaker riffs. Otherwise, songs like "Birth of Tension" and "Time to Kill" have some nice ideas but just aren't consistently well written, and "Who Tends the Fire" could join "Skullkrusher" and the title track on the pyre for all I care (a fairly sizable, almost 30 minute chunk of the album).

A friend once summed this record up as 'The Black Album' of Overkill, but I think that honor is better bestowed on one of the later 90s works. This is more or less 50% pure thrashing abandon in the vein of its predecessor, with a few stabs at some dynamic variation. Some people truly love it, and it makes sense that the group would wanna send out some feelers into other terrain and broaden the baseline songwriting, I only wish they had done a better job of it, and the aural aesthetics of the CD have never sounded good to me in headphones, car speakers, stereo. That aside, it's not without some strong points. For one, I think Falck's drumming here was a step above Under the Influence, and I would be lying to deny that a few of their best songs exist in "I Hate" and "Elimination", anthems that stand alongside "Rotten to the Core", "Wrecking Crew" and "Hello from the Gutter" as iconic. Was definitely the last 'good' Overkill for some time, but it's never been a personal favorite of mine and I struggle to listen through the whole of it almost 20+ years later.


Quite Possibly Their Best - 95%

Shadoeking, March 19th, 2011

Recently I found this CD hiding in the used section of the local Hastings and snatched it up. Being a big Overkill fan, any deal on their music is a good one. This was their 1989 release, which came right before Horrorscope, an album that I would classify as my favorite one by the band. So, I figured I knew what I was getting into. I was actually very surprised by this album.

Typically with Overkill albums, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. You are going to get songs that are going to kick your ass. They are going to be fast and energetic and aggressive as all hell with a punk attitude and killer riffs. However, on this album we hear some departures from the typical Overkill sound. Obviously the elements that have made Overkill Overkill are still present and in great numbers, but this was a more experimental release by the band.

Let's start with the epic length songs. Overkill until this point played mostly fast and shorter songs. But this album features the ten minute "Playing with Spiders/Skullcrusher" and two additional eight minute tracks. This makes this a longer than usual Overkill album at nearly an hour long.

The first half of the album thunders along in typical Overkill style, but the second half features a lot more melodic moments. The title track is a surprisingly good ballad track. Many thrash bands were attempting these in the late 1980's and Overkill succeeded in putting together a decent one. "Who Tends the Fire?" features a number of impressive tempo changes.

In the late 1980's many thrash metal bands were trying a number of things to stay relevant. They were experimenting with progressive song structures, softening their sound, and trying to be more diverse. Overkill attempted all of these things on this release and largely succeeded. This is a tremendous album by the band and one of their highlights.

Good Yes..."Masterpiece" Not Quite - 79%

OldSchoolKid, April 26th, 2010

"The Years Of Decay" is a record I've had a peculiar relationship with since its unleashing upon the world. The year was 1989 and by this time, the thrash genre was just beginning its downward descent from what I consider its second peak in 1988 (into VERY early '89). Many of the more establish bands were beginning to dabble in experimentation with slower tempos and different sonic textures and Overkill were no different here. Some bands were able to pull it off rather well, like Slayer on the previous years "South Of Heaven" while others, such as Metallica's "...And Justice For All", turned into unmitigated snooze fests.

Coming off the absolute rager that was "Under The Influence", one of my personal favorite albums from the entire genre, Overkill offers a sort of "both worlds" approach on "The Years Of Decay". On the one hand, you have a sound that is as raw as any the genre ever produced. Blitz's vocals took on a less melodic and more of a raspy, screechy tone that he has continued to use to this day and Terry Date's production here is absolutely masterful as he finds the perfect balance between giving each of the instruments their own space and identity while also mixing everything into a coherent whole.

Having said this...the highlights of this record are those songs where Overkill does what Overkill has done the very best for 25+ years now...thrash, stomp and rage.

Opener "Time To Kill" gets the record off to a solid, if unspectacular beginning but does a fine job setting the stage for everything to come...including a tasty, crunchy down tempo middle section. From here we get what I feel are the two best tracks on the record and two of Overkill's best tracks in their long career, the very well known "Elimination" and the very underrated "I Hate", a tune where Blitz's new found raspy, pissed-off hiss finds a perfect outlet.

From here, this record becomes MUCH less the Overkill I'd come to know and love and more the "experimental" Overkill. The approach yields a few "good", not great tracks in "Nothing To Die For" and "Birth Of Tension" that have much going for them but seem to be lacking that edge that made Overkill an all-time great thrash band. It also results in the forgettable "Who Tends The Fire", the overlong "Playing With Spiders/Skullcrusher", a tune saved by an up tempo middle section and the unusual, yet spectacular title track.

About the title track...this was at a time when many established thrash acts were writing ballads and pseudo ballads, and not with a great deal of success. This is one song by one band who got it right...building it up brilliantly from Bobby Gustafson's acoustic texturing to a nice, crunchy mid-tempo stomp without either losing momentum or turning it into another song entirely. Blitz gives one of his finest performances ever on this track, recalling his previous vocal style while working in his new approach when the moment called for. What starts as acoustic rock builds up to an epic ending, succeeding where "Who Tends The Fire", a plodding, going nowhere 8-minute excursion failed.

Overkill then end with "E.vil N.ever D.ies", a most appropriate swan song to the Bobby Gustafson era of Overkill and a tune that sums up this album perfectly. A balls-to-the-wall slab of uptempo thrash that is a final return to what Overkill do the very best.

I've seen many people, both here and elsewhere, hail "The Years Of Decay" as a masterpiece and Overkill's finest hour...and indeed, the best songs on this record are among the best the band ever penned and for certain, highlights of the Bobby Gustafson era of Overkill, an era that brought young thrashers such as myself several year of shredtastic ear candy. To me, it is still an enjoyable and overall solid release

However, when I bought this album upon its release, I felt it was a step back for one of my favorite, if not my #1 favorite band...possibly the sign of a band either in transition or simply beginning to lose its spark, its edge, its fire. In spite of its awesome production and, in my opinion, some of the best performances of the respective careers of each of the musicians (especially Blitz and D.D.), this album still has a few too many dull moments, a few too many glaring flaws and not nearly enough musical cohesion or aggression to be considered a "thrashterpiece"...or even terribly representative of the band as a whole.

It is Overkill, it is good and I do still recommend this record if you don't own it already, not only as a solid Overkill release but as something of an historical document of the crossroads the thrash genre and many of its established acts found themselves at coming into the 1990's...but if you're looking for an introduction to this legendary outfit, I recommend finding "Under The Influence", "Feel The Fire" or "Horrorscope" before diving into this record.

Man, I need this album right now. - 94%

Acrobat, July 22nd, 2009

You know, it’s just been one of those days – everything in the conceivable universe has managed to piss you off, and you’re sick of shovelling shit or shitting shovels (whichever the case may be). You feel your pulse racing, anger rising and the inevitable thought comes: It’s time to kill whoever happens to cross your path next. This album is just perfect for those moods. Everything about it is tense and angry; it’s an album wrought with angst – that’s right, The Years of Decay is an album that’s kicking against absolutely everything in its path.

‘Let me out of prison I’m just killing cats’ Yes, that’ll do nicely.

It’s certainly a departure from the punky, NWOBHM-tinged thrash that Overkill did before; it’s groovy, brimming with hostility, and it is surely a great deal more varied than the band’s previous works. But unlike several other well-known thrash ‘departures’ (for lack of a better term) The Years of Decay – despite its variation – is pure, thoroughbred thrash. It’s hard to explain, really, but, thrash isn’t just a certain style of riffing with a certain underlying drum pattern; it’s a manner of playing – an attitude, even. Certainly, it’s always been the case with Overkill; they’ve always possessed the said thrash attitude, and here it shines through. In many ways they’re the archetypal thrash band; it’s often said that thrash is “Judas Priest played by a punk band” who else but Overkill actually sounded like this? Think of the Overkill debut, Feel the Fire, that’s what it sounds like to me. But this is certainly a progression: starting out as a straight-forward, if exemplary, thrash album and then unleashing all kinds hell as it turns into a bludgeoning monster, moving at a slower pace but simply allowing for more aggression to focused with each hit. ‘Time to Kill’, ‘I Hate’, ‘Skullcrusher’? Do I need to spell it out that these guys mean business? Given that they took their name from a certain Motörhead number, I should fucking hope not!

But don’t be fooled, though, Overkill haven’t forgotten their influences – there still is an NWOBHM influence here, it’s just more concealed that you’d find on previous releases. Am I alone in thinking that the parallels between ‘Who Tends the Fire’ and Diamond Head’s ‘Am I Evil?’ are just as prevalent as those between the oft-stressed ‘Elimination’ and Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’? It’s still there, and make no qualms about it. The Years of Decay is the sound of a band both moving forward, hitting its stride in frightening form, and leaving nothing of what made its own formula so successful in the first place. In short: The Years of Decay is what every thrash band would have wanted to achieve with their own ‘step forward’ out of a tried-and-true thrash formula… yet at the same time it’s still a pure thrash album in terms of feeling, leaving no question as to why it’s so popular with fans! From straight thrash, to punky numbers, to expansive, epic numbers Overkill manage everything you’d ever need on this record. You want lessons on how to remain on the artistic role-call whilst still broadening your sound? Listen to fucking Overkill!

You know what, I was angry earlier (ready to recreate the cover of Black Flag’s Damaged in my own bathroom, even) and now I can barely remember why. That’s an exorcism! That’s a release! Angst has been so frivolously misused by a lot of recent movements (i.e. some of the more suspect ones that came after thrash) that you’d be forgiven if you forget it was a vital proponent in a lot of the finest metal. They say metal is made by angry young men for angry young men, and I can think of few better examples of this than Overkill’s legendary fourth album The Years of Decay. Rrraaahhh, thrash!


Twisted_Psychology, July 1st, 2009

Along with 1991’s "Horrorscope," this 1989 effort is often considered to be one of Overkill’s strongest albums to date. It features the band further expanding their songwriting repertoire and was the first to feature Soundgarden/Pantera producer Terry Date. Unfortunately, it was also the final album to feature founding guitarist Bobby Gustafson.

Musically, this could best be described as sort of a hybrid album for it combines the more epic nature of "Taking Over" with the more raw nature of "Feel the Fire" and "Under the Influence." As expected, the album seems to focus more on the thrash side of the band with these songs featuring fast paced riffs and venomous vocal lines. "Elimination" is worth noting for its strong chorus and Metallicaesque riffs, "I Hate" is made memorable by lyrics that sound incredibly whiny if someone else other than vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth was singing them (“I hate people that make you feel small/I hate having my back against the wall/You know, I hate being talked down to”), and "Birth of Tension" is made distinct by even stranger lyrics during the bridge (“did you kill your father, sleep with your mother/idolize your sister, jealous your brother/did ya kick the dog, were you beat a strap/were you really be abused, were you fakin' all that too”).

Despite associating themselves with the thrash metal movement for most of their career, Overkill can definitely write a great epic track when they feel like it. "Playing with Spiders/Skullkrusher" could very well be the greatest song the band has ever written and features pure Sabbath worship in the form of doom metal guitar riffs, impressively melodic croons throughout, an excellent chorus, and an appropriately faster bridge. "Who Tends the Fire" isn’t quite as impressive but still features some cool tempo changes and the title track is a pretty strong ballad track. Also worth noting is the inclusion of "E.Vil N.Ever D.Ies." The final installment of the Overkill saga until 2007’s "Immortalis," the song starts off in a doom style before going into more intense territory for the verses and choruses.

Aside from Blitz being his usual self, I have found that this album’s one true flaw is an occasional feeling of unoriginality. Several songs have parts or structures that are eerily similar to other songs performed by their peers with Metallica being the most recurring band. The introduction to "Elimination" has a few riffs that are identical to Metallica’s "Master of Puppets," the introduction in "Who Tends the Fire" has a building rhythm similar to that of Diamond Head’s "Am I Evil?," and "E.Vil N.Ever D.Ies" has an overall structure similar to that of Metallica’s "Damage Inc." On the other hand, I feel as though the main riff of Exodus’s "AWOL" may have been inspired by the upbeat grooves on "Nothing to Die For."

Overall, this is pretty much required listening for any thrash metal fan and worth checking out for the doom metal tracks as well.

1) Great guitar riffs, backing bass, and charismatic vocals
2) Not a trace of filler to be found

1) A few traces of unoriginal songwriting can be found on occasion
2) Like any Overkill album, the vocals are of an acquired taste

My Current Favorites:
"Elimination," "I Hate," "Playing with Spiders/Skullkrusher," "Who Tends the Fire," and "E.Vil N.Ever D.Ies"

And to think people call Metallica classic - 92%

Idontsuckdick, December 14th, 2008

An average person pouncing upon and listening to Overkill would most likely be turned off by Bobby’s raunchy screechy voice. It tends to have that effect. And you may hear it louder than everything else, and it could be annoying. But if you start to listen closer you will realize not only are the instrumentals tight and well written, but the vocals match up with them perfectly. This album is just overall very well written and a classic for its time period. It may seem that what’s being done on it has been done a thousand times before, but you must consider that this album is from the early 90’s.

This album is just strictly thrash metal, nothing else. It consists of fast and uplifting beats, crushing and speedy riffs, godly and all around the place bass playing, and angry yet clever vocals. The solos go by so fast you have to listen closely to pick out single notes. I don’t know if it was the way it was recorded, but it sounds as though these are some of the fastest solos ever, living up to the Work of Alex Skolnick and Jeff Hanneman.

One thing that strikes me as odd is that you can actually hear the bass on this album. And not only can you hear it, but it is actually very loud, and also all over the place. Sometimes it will be playing nothing like what the guitars are playing, but it fits in tight and perfectly. The tone is very clear and has a cool crunch to it that fits the thrash style rather well.

I will tend to use the word “tight” a lot in this review because overall that’s the best word to describe how it sounds, as the instruments all exist in perfect harmony. Anyhoo, the drums are just fast and tight, but tend not to stand out. He just keeps the beat and adjusts to the changes when needing to. I can help but notice however how good the double bass is, especially for the time. The backbeats really make you want to bob your head.

There are some really cool thrashy sounding riffs here. The guitar tone is very thick and heavy, and the chromatic guitar playing creates a very cool mood. There are some very clever riffs in such songs as I Hate and Birth of Tension. I especially enjoy the solos, as they are really freaking fast. They don’t really slow down at all but that’s how the music is supposed to be.

The two best songs I believe are Time to Kill and Skullcrusher. Time to Kill is just a well written and powerful intro, and Skullcrusher is a very smart attempt at doom metal. Some other really cook tracks are Nothing to Die For, I Hate, and Who Tends to the fire. Never the less, all tracks are good.

This album receives a high score for its originality, tight playing, clever lyrics, and never ending energy. It does not receive a perfect score because it may get boring if you listen to it for a week non-stop, though you can always listen to it and never get bored of it, it can’t be overdone.

An essential thrash metal album! - 96%

DGYDP, January 4th, 2008

Every self-respecting thrash metal fan has at least heard of the name “Overkill”. Not only is this the name of an album by Motörhead (an album that had major influence on the development on thrash), but also the name of a band. Not just “a” band, but the band that would become known as the creators of the first ever thrash song (“the Beast Within”). They didn’t necessarily invent the genre, but they were pioneers and among the first to master a style that is loved and cherished by millions of people, even 20 years after its peak.

This album is their fourth studio album, and by many believed to be their magnum opus. It is indeed an essential thrash record, and not headbanging while listening to it is simply impossible. The name of this classic piece is “The Years of Decay”. It’s an excellent demonstration of how thrash metal should be played, but also a lesson on how to redefine yourself without selling out and staying within the boundaries of the respective genre. On a couple of songs we can hear how Blitz and company tried out some new elements and concepts. Some call this being ‘progressive’, but since I’m not fond of putting things in boxes (so to speak), I’ll leave that to you. These attempts to be less traditional are not that appealing to me, simply because I enjoy the other tracks a lot more.

“Playing with Spiders/Skullcrusher”, for example, is a 10 minute song that should have been split up in two different songs. The song starts with a slow paced, simple (but nice) riff and Ellsworth talking about difficulties in life. After a while though, it starts getting really repetitive and even a bit boring. That being said I did enjoy listening to it for the first time, it’s just not the sort of track you’d put on repeat and listen to for hours. Anyhow, Gustafson speeds his guitar work up halfway through the song. An instrumental part follows, and after a while the riff from the beginning comes in again. A solo follows, then a slow part again, and finally, the track fades out with the chorus. As you can see, this song has a much more complicated structure than we are used to hear from them. I am glad Overkill tried out something new, and I don’t mind this track that much, but after listening to the album for a couple of times I simply skip it.

“Who Tends the Fire”, is another track that is unlike all the other ones. The first part of the song is pretty dramatic, with Billy providing vocals in such a way and with an obvious attempt to have an epic, acoustic riff. This part is a perfect example of the more ‘epic’ nature of the album. Suddenly though, a great thrash riff kicks in. Unfortunately, this doesn’t save this song. After eight minutes it ends, and save for a couple of really cool riffs, this is perhaps the worst (as in: least enjoyable, because it’s certainly enjoyable) song on the album. This song forms a duo with the title track, which is pretty similar. I find “The Years of Decay” a lot more listenable though, mainly here, Blitz demonstrates his talent. For all of you people who thought he was only good for high-pitched singing, this song proves that he is capable of a lot more. With also a cool acoustic part, an awesome ‘whiplash causing’ part, a great solo and a great ending, this is a very good song. The ending alone is worth mentioning, since it just wants to make you jump out of your chair, raise the horns and sing along as loud as you can.

Even though I certainly enjoy the ‘less traditional’ songs, I like the other ones a lot more. Enough about the ‘weird’ songs, lets talk about the pure thrash classics. The album opener, “Time to Kill”, has an epic intro (what would you expect from the first song on an Overkill album?!). This song has many awesome thrash riffs, a sweet chorus (which will have you singing ‘time to kill!’ long after the album has ended), an amazing solo and an epic outro. What more would you wish for? The more I listen to this song, the more it grows on me.

All the nay-sayers are immediately silenced by “Elimination”. If you haven’t heard that song yet; you have failed. Period. The only way to make up for your failure at life is to run to the record store, get this cd, and listen to “Elimination” at least 89 times in a row. I don’t even know where to start praising it. I mean, this is quite possible one of the best thrash songs ever made. Everything about it kicks so much ass it’s a wet dream come true for all metal fanatics. The opening riff is so awesome, mere words cannot describe it. The bass line in the chorus is so amazing, that when I tried playing it, the gods punished me for touching something sacred. Blitz’ vocals are so amazing that you will be haunted by his presence for the rest of your life if you don’t learn the lyrics by heart. The drums are so great, that I simply don’t have anything more to add about them. There is also a dual solo, which you’ll have to check out for yourself because I don’t have words to describe that much ‘epic win’. Yes. Fuck. Yes.

Next are two other mind-blowing classics, “I Hate” and “Nothing to Die For”. The latter demonstrates (again) that Blitz is also good at singing clean vocals. The intro is really cool, and the rest of the song will cause your head to bang. Same thing for “I Hate”, which has a very catchy chorus. Once again … you’ll be singing this track long after the cd has ended. Thrash doesn’t get any better than this, so be sure to check out this cd if you even remotely like the genre.

“Birth of Tension” and “E.vil N.ever D.ies” are two other great songs. “Birth of Tension” has a cool opening and a really sweet bridge. Sid Falck demonstrates he’s good at double bass pounding in the chorus, and Gustafson demonstrates his guitar talents is another great solo. This solo is different from other ones he has done, and is actually pretty weird. The wah-wah pedal does its job, but perhaps Gustafson should have chosen to use it a bit less. Nonetheless, this solo demonstrates that lead guitarists can also try out new things in stead of sticking to the old-fashioned ‘play scales as fast as you can’ approach.

The last song on the record, “E.vil N.ever D.ies” starts with a really weird intro. I don’t really understand the purpose of it, and neither do I understand why they didn’t just edit it out. Luckily the intro quickly ends and we are treated with an awesome headbang moment. The song is overall very ‘Overkill’, the kind of thing you expect, but still blows you away while listening to it. The bridge has a sweet bass lick, and after it the song starts speeding up. This is an amazing song, to say the least. Once again a great solo follows, but unfortunately the song abruptly comes to an end. Too bad, because in my opinion they should have made this track longer and shortened longer songs. You wont hear me complain though, it’s still a good song.

As you may have noticed by now, this album is a thrash classic. Negative points are some of the lyrics, which are a bit predictable and contain the average ‘me angry’ approach, such as in “I Hate” and “Time to Kill”. I don’t mind these type of lyrics, but it’s just nothing new after hearing dozens of other records who contain the exact same message. There are also good lyrics though, most notably in “Elimination” (which deals about a person who has been diagnosed with a fatal disease) and in “The Years of Decay”. Blitz does a great job as a vocalist, and to me he is perhaps one of the best metal vocalists ever. He’s definitely a metal icon, who still goes by his original ideals (unlike others …). Most of his vocals contain high pitched singing, something a lot of people can’t stand. Therefore, the phrase ‘hate him or love him’ applies to Blitz. Even if you dislike his regular vocals, you still have to give him credit for being able to sing ‘normal’ as well. Something that is proven in “Nothing to die For” and “The Years of Decay”.

The instrumental part is really good too, especially DD Verni’s work as a bassist. Unlike most metal bassists, this guy does his job (as opposed to simply playing root notes of rhythm patterns). There’s even a ‘pop and slap’ thing featured in “Nothing to Die For”. I didn’t expect that, because I always thought that Claypool was the first to bring slapping into metal. Bobby Gustafson does a great job on guitar too, with great solos and some very memorable, amazing riffs. Falck’s job on the drums is good as well, nothing to criticize there. I think that many people give too less credit for drummers like him, because most of us hardcore metalheads are used to insane drumming. He may not be the best metal drummer ever, but he perfectly accompanied Blitz and co. on this album.

Oh and before I forget, the production is great too. It’s perfectly mixed, the bass is audible when it needs to be audible, the drums and vocals seem to be set at the right level … if I would be given a chance to re-master this album, I wouldn’t change a single thing!

Overall, this is a great album. If you like thrash, you should try it out, since it is an essential classic. Overkill are an important part in the history of the genre. Where other bands sold out and changed their sound to be more radio-friendly, Overkill have always stayed the good old Overkill. In 2008 they are one of the few pioneers who are still doing what they did 25 years ago, and only because of this fact they deserve respect. While ignored by the mainstream public, they still release amazing thrash albums (check out “Immortalis”, released in 2007). I love this band, and they deserve more respect than all the idiots who betrayed their roots …

Awesome Technical Thrash!! - 97%

CHRISTI_NS_ANITY8, October 19th, 2007

By the end of the 80s and the beginning of the 90s (more or less from 1988 and 1992) several thrash metal bands changed their style of doing this genre. Those bands, once more violent and raw, in those years conceived true technical thrash albums. For example, let’s think to Metallica's “…And Justice For All”; Megadeth’s “Rust In Peace”; Forbidden’s “Twisted Into Form”; Artillery’s “By Inheritance”; Heathen’s “Victims Of Deception” and many, many others…and surely Overkill belong to this list. Maybe it’s considered the dying period for thrash because the very first death metal bands started to born, but all those albums are, in my opinion, true masterpieces.

Overkill’s album “The Years of Decay” is quite different from their past ones. As I said, it’s far more technical but it is also far more gloomy. In those years seems that “the light of the day”, the insane violence that characterized the very first thrash albums has a bit gone away for a more mature lyrics and music. Sadness, wars and social problems are now the main themes for those bands; like in several others, less technical but anyway more mature (Slayer). In this album Overkill are able to recreate in the music scenarios of desolation, criminality, depression and obscurity typical of a big city (New York for them), giving something new.

The violence shown in several years is more “focused” and filtrated through technique, without loosing anything in impact and even growing in interest and attraction. The guitars riffs are still fast, but with lots of tempo changes, followed by a better drum work; more mature but always crushing, always THRASH. The production is what I consider “The best one for thrash metal”: clean, powerful and gloom. Already from the opener we can hear a quite new style of thrash: so obscure with the mid tempo. Bobby's screams are fantastic and after few seconds a true fucking heavy riff takes dominion with a bit faster mid tempo. The technical level is high and the form of the song is always catchy, especially in the refrain.

The songs are always long and quite complicated in their riffs. The work done by the drums-bass-guitars is always perfect and quite difficult. The ghosts of the more direct thrashy sound can be found in “Elimination” song with that awesome guitars solos and some speed metal riffs. The refrain is always catchy as fuck. Some breaks, so gloomy and slow are the new way taken by the band, like the beginning of “I Hate” (that then becomes a true old style song) or the supreme mid tempo from hell of “Playing With Spiders/Skullcrusher”. Bobby’s vocals are always schizophrenic and truly a trademark.

The strange and progressive guitars work on “Nothing To Die For” fits perfectly with faster drums while “Birth Of Tension” is total impact of technical thrash. Fast bass drum during the refrain alternated to heavy mid paced riffs. The guitar arpeggios on “Who Tends The Fire” are mixed with the gloomy sound of a distorted guitar, suffocated by a true march done by instruments. The refrain is fucking gloom and slow while the whole song is mid paced, except for the solos part. The arpeggios on the semi ballad title track are awesome in his extreme sad melody and “E.vil N.ever D.ies” after an acoustic intro of a dark melody is a fast thrash song. Here the technical level is even higher because it is mixed with speed. During the refrain we can hear an acoustic arpeggio too, done so fast in few seconds, between the electric guitars parts.

Well, I have to stop my review. I can only say: “Buy this fucking album!!” and you are gonna love it for sure. I think this is the true Overkill peak in songwriting, technique and inspiration. A must for every die hard thrash metal fan.

A highlight in their career - 98%

morbert, October 10th, 2007

Overkill has always been around in the thrash metal scene since the early days releasing albums regularly throughout the years and keeping the flame burning. With some albums emerging from the masses and with others unfortunately being generic and dull. Overkill has not become a household name because all their albums were great (only a few are actually) but because of their resilience and persistence in continuing all these years.

The thrash metal highlights of their career we’re their first 5 albums (1985-1991). During the nineties the band went experimenting and grooving as a lot of eighties thrash metal would do. “The Years Of Decay” is one of those Overkill albums that exceeded expectations and can be considered a classic eighties album in their discography as well as the genre in its entirety. The album combined their familiar up tempo thrash from their earlier albums with a lot of slower, melodic and lengthy moments but WITHOUT losing power and still being thrash metal. Overkill have never achieved this again since.

‘Time To Kill’ had some old school Metallica breaks and moments (Bobby Gustafson has always been a Hetfield acolyte, remember their video for ‘Hello From The Gutter’), but the great drums and typical vocals of Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth make it a recognisable and tight Overkill composition. ‘Elimination’ is a mid tempo pounder with extremely dynamic screeching vocals and a very strong chorus. The video of this song was the reason I bought this album in the first place. A classic Overkill tune.

‘I Hate’ and ‘Nothing To Die For’ are two typical quality Overkill thrashers but with more variation that we were used to, filled with riffs, breaks and remaining catchy still. Same goes for the quality thrashers ‘Birth of Tension’ and ‘E.vil N.ever D.ies’. On ‘Playing With Spiders / Skullkrusher’ the band achieved writing an inspiring 10 minute doom-thrash epic that might take some time getting used to but looking back can be considered a daring anthem. I like the song but I wouldn’t want to see them perform it live to be honest.

‘Who Tends the Fire’ and ‘The Years of Decay’ are two lengthy but very varied songs that have some powerballad moments without getting cheesy but having an eerie atmosphere as well as real thrash metal riffing and breaks. Ellsworth shows his true potential on these songs which show he can also ‘sing’ instead of just screaming around (which he also does with flair on this album by the way).

The production was clear and heavy. I especially like hearing the bass guitar in this amount. When first hearing this album when you’re normally used to their up tempo thrash metal assault, the album opens a whole dimension to the world of Overkill but will keep your head banging. Unfortunately it turned out to be the last one with Bobby Gustafson who remains in my eighties hall of fame.

Overkill Never Dies! - 100%

hells_unicorn, March 14th, 2007

Tracing its roots back to the NWOBHM and the underground punk scene, thrash combines the right amount of aggression and technical flair to both frighten the self-righteous into hiding and inspire a punk rocker hack to learn his instrument and grow his hair down to his ass. Naturally one is then to ask what the standard is for measuring the success of an effort at compiling an LP in this very unique and poorly imitated art form. Although some might site a release by Kreator, MegaDeth, or Metallica as the pinnacle of the genre, they probably never heard Overkill’s fourth invocation of the high speed, bone crushing, virtuoso worshipping demon that is thrash metal.

“The Years of Decay” accomplishes what many believe that Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” did, introduce a long-winded epic style with a more progressive sound without sacrificing the raw energy that an album of the thrash style demands. Several of the songs make use of brief introductions, as did Metallica’s heralded 3rd release, but here we see a consistent use of darkness and gloom that doesn’t clash with the faster sections that follow after. “Evil Never Dies” has an intro that may well be compared with “Damage Inc.”, except it listens like an ominous version of Medieval Organum rather than a comical pre-classical overture that doesn’t fit with what follows. The title track might be compared to “Sanitarium”, except it is structured completely different and highlights a dynamic vocal performance (Blitz has twice the range that Hetfield had when he could still sing) as well an artful avoidance of redundancy.

The first half of this album is where most of the thrashers lie, all of them clocking in at under 5 minutes except for “Time to Kill”, which has an extended riff intro that takes a minute or so before stomping the listener’s neck into the ground with a high speed riff frenzy. “I Hate” is the shortest and most aggressive of the lot; not to mention being lyrically the most punk inspired. If you are having a bad day and wish you could kick the shit out of whoever made it so, this song is quite therapeutic and a good alternative to facing assault charges. “Elimination” is the most listener-friendly and the most hook-laden, the lyrics are easy to follow, and the music video was a good alternative to the glam stuff that dominated MTV at the time. “Nothing to Die for” is another anthem of angst superimposed against a series of great thrash riffs, some of which sound like an even more speed driven version of Metallica’s “Blackened”, not to mention one where we can actually hear the bass.

The second half of this album is a mix of more insanely thrashing good fun and some experimental songs that rival longer works by other metal outfits. “Playing with Spiders/Skullcrusher” is the muddiest and slowest song I’ve ever heard out of the band, sometimes reminding of Black Sabbath, although Blitz’s vocals are literally all over the place yet never missing a note. It transitions into a somewhat faster tempo after the first few minutes, but it mostly reeks of doom influences. “The Years of Decay” is the closest thing to a ballad on here, starting off with a long acoustic section with Blitz actually singing cleanly, but getting plenty aggressive after the first few minutes. “Who Tends the Fire” is also quite long and starts off quiet, but is far too menacing throughout to be profaned with the title ballad. Metallica wishes they could write songs this horrific yet moderated in tempo and avoid getting boring. “Birth of Tension” and “Evil Never Dies” are more classic Overkill style thrash, rapidly shifting beats and riffs, and literally bashing the hell out of the listener until his ears bleed.

In many ways, “The Years of Decay” is the end of a grand chapter in the history of metal. It came out in a year when thrash was still very much alive, as were the 80s, but also when its impending demise was beginning to rear its ugly head. The closing track “Evil Never Dies” is accented with 3 periods to spell out “END”, obviously to signify that the 4 part Overkill saga started on the 9th track of the debut was over (although not credited as part 4 in the title, the signature riff found in the other 3 parts can be heard briefly towards the end). Ironically this would also come to signify the end of the era for the band with Bobby Gustafson as the sole axe man, but also signified in the title is the assertion that Evil is forever, and as one can readily observe on “Horrorscope” and the bulk of Overkill’s releases afterwards, this band is unmoved and unbroken by the tides of time and public opinion.

Although I argue this to be the greatest accomplishment of Overkill and the best thrash album I’ve ever heard thus far (I’m still proliferating stuff from the 80s), I am still partial to the debut due to a greater level of accessibility as well as my own history with it. The only flaw in this album is that it is so fast, so furious, and so complex that many will have a hard time grasping its true nature. If you like thrash and you don’t have this album, lie and say you do have it until you can get it, don’t be like me and be caught praising Overkill yet not actually have your own copy. If you only own one album by them, get this one, if you can get 2 albums, pick up “Feel the Fire” after you get this one.

But most of all... I HATE YOU! - 96%

UltraBoris, December 20th, 2004

I do NOT hate this album, however... only today did I realise how much I really truly fucking love the Hell out of it. I've had it since approximately the summer or fall of 1996, when I got it on tape - it was my absolute favourite album in the world for a while, then kinda settled back a notch, but then I realised it has never, ever left the "constant listening" rotation. At least once a month I spin this one, if not at least once a week. It's perfect for the ride to work - coming in in the morning, blasting "I HATE" on 11, seeing what the director of marketing has to say to that.

This is one of Overkill's more varied albums - all of their works have had straight-up three minute thrashers combined with longer, more epic numbers ("Feel the Fire", "Overkill II", "End of the Line" come to mind from the first three... also "The Answer" from the EP and "Nice Day for a Funeral/Soulitude" from the next one.) On here, we really have two long epic numbers: the "lame" title track (but they play it live anyway) and the doomy, extremely appropriately titled Skullkrusher.

Skullkrusher is an experience - it takes what The Answer began, and puts it to a new standard of pain - I'm really not sure which song I like *better*, because both do the slow-fast-slow thing so fucking well, as Black Sabbath have taught us how, but nonetheless, a complete winner. The Years of Decay is not quite as long, and starts off quite balladic, not crushing any skulls at all, before busting out in a very simple but insanely effective midpaced riff. It somehow goes on for eight minutes without becoming boring.

Then of course, there are the face-ripping fucktracks, because this is Overkill, and if they did not fuck you and rip your face, they would not be. I HATE!! ELIMINATION!! EVIL NEVER DIES!!! NOTHING TO DIE FOR!! Fuck yes, these are just monsters of the highest order - each clocking in around three and a half minutes (okay, E.N.D. is really about five, but that includes the bass intro). I Hate is just the perfect blast of Jersey lowlife punk fury - "tryin' to get out, trapped like a dog! No, I don't like pumping gas!" combined with monstrous thrash riffs, and even a schweet somewhat melodic solo.

There are three slightly longer balls-out thrashers as well: the opener, Time to Kill, is pretty textbook, with the New York style middle break... The Birth of Tension is another fucking ripper - "did ya kick the dog, were you beat with a strap... were you really abused, were ya faking all that... TOO TENSE!!!" - seriously, this is not a song to which you can drive slower than 75 miles an hour to.

The only slight lowlight of this album is the beginning of Who Tends the Fire, which just doesn't compare to EVIL!!! NEVER DIES!! or ELIMINATE THE WEAK!! ELIMINATE THE STRONG!! It's the tiniest bit plodding, but then gets pretty fucking good though, when it kicks into maximum overdrive - YOU DON'T KNOW THAT YOU'RE GONNA DIE!!!

The way the album's set up works surprisingly well too - the Darkness-Descends-like noise intro turning into blasting thrash riffs, that scream at full fucking speed through E! Limination, SICK AND TIRED OF NUMBER TWO, and the slightly off-kilter (damn, I can never sing along to this one) OLD ENOUGH TO KNOW BETTER, TOO DEAD TO CHANGE...

then, almost a second intro, here comes Skullkrusher, blaring in with noise, pounds you upside the head approximately 85 billion times with a brick approximately as large and ugly as Detroit, then two more blasts of slightly longer thrash... akin to Feel the Fire (the title track)... finally, Years of Decay riffs on for eight minutes, then the little intro (which totally rips off Damage Inc, haha) and finally OVERKILL PART FOUR... (Don't believe me? Listen to the third chorus. "EVIL!" [riff] "NEVER DIES!" That riff is the intro riff to Overkill part I. Full circle, the story ends.) MONEY HUNGRY POWER THIRSTY PENNY PINCHING DOUBLE CROSSING BACK STABBING......


Eight years later... EVIL NEVER DIES!