Classic Album Review – Overkill “The Years of Decay” 1989

  The Years of Decay shares many attributes with …And Justice for All in that it’s a huge undertaking made up of the band’s highest aspirations, produced at the height of the North American thrash movement. Overkill set out to make the biggest record of their career and succeeded admirably.

This album is almost too big, too heavy and too powerful to be enjoyed in a single sitting (like that’s a bad problem to have). It’s a wheelbarrow full of long, intricate songs stacked up like riff sandwiches of Scooby-Doo proportions, aided by a whalloping, woofer-destroying mix from Terry Date. When all stringed instruments focus on the same target it can suck all the air from a room like a hypnotic smoke chamber in a cult lodge. Not that they always operate in lockstep; D.D. Verni often snatches the spotlight and carries long stretches of material on his own by laying down massive, catchy bass lines and licks. It’s impressive that he shows off his virtuosity without overstepping his place and getting Steve Harris-like in his noodling and leaving rhythm section territory. Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth delivers his banshee howl with just a hint of a lip-curling snarl as a tip of the hat towards the band’s punk roots on temper-tantrums “I Hate” and “Birth of Tension”, and exudes a world-weariness beyond his years on dirge of doom “Skullkrusher” and the album’s triumphantly melancholy title track.

Just when you think things are getting a bit too lengthy, Overkill steal a page from their better-known contemporaries by tossing in a (relatively) short, sharp, lightning fast ball of hate to close things out. “E.vil N.ever D.ies” is the perfect palate cleanser, and also (by inserting the occasional sneaky rifference) serves as a stealth entry in the band’s sprawling “Overkill Saga”.

The Years of Decay shows off Overkill at their most large and in-charge, but in the end, the momentum proved unsustainable. Bobby Gustafson would depart the band and Overkill, along with the majority of thrash, would go back underground for 20 years. In those years, however, they have continued to make music, some of it excellent, and the scene itself has not decayed at all. Thrash fans have remained fanatically loyal, and albums like this one are a big part of the reason for that loyalty and the foundation for the resurgence we see today.  8.5 out of 10

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One Response to “Classic Album Review – Overkill “The Years of Decay” 1989”

  1. Metal Odyssey Says:

    I can’t dispute a word you stated about this fabulous Overkill album. Call me a “bias” Overkill fan, yet I never listened to an “average” Overkill album ever. (Where Metallica is a different story).

    Overkill has to be the most consistent Thrash Metal band since day one, based on their catalog of albums and touring schedule.

    Excellent post \m/

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