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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.