Review Summary: Overkill's defining album; A true classic of thrash metal
Nearly every band at some point or another releases their defining album, the album that showcases their sound, attitude, and in many ways who they are. "The Years of Decay" is not only Overkill's defining album, but in many ways defines the very sound of thrash metal. Hailing from New Jersey, Overkill formed in 1980 making them one of the earliest thrash bands to come into existence. The band is also one of the most stable and active thrash bands, having played together for nearly 33 years. 1989 was an incredible year for thrash, with such albums as "Alice in Hell", "Fabulous Disaster", and "Practice What you Preach" bolstering the thrash metal movements resolve. This particular album was the proverbial icing on the cake and it perhaps one of the best thrash albums released in the 80's.
The band draws from their earlier releases and a couple new ideas for this albums sound. Taking technical songwriting and raw energy and putting them together results in a well rounded and compelling release. This album was the band's major label debut, and was financed and distributed by Atlantic Records, resulting in a more high quality sound. Renowned producer Terry Date was brought on board and does a stellar job giving this album a sound that compliments the music perfectly. The overall vibe exhibited here remains more or less aggressive and intense in the heavier tracks, while sounding slightly theatrical with the slow yet very epic title track. The band also took some time to introduce a brand new element to their music with the slow-paced groove oriented "Playing with Spiders/Skullcrusher", and it is nice to see the band trying to expand their sound in this aspect. Considering the already solid musical bass and vibe, Lyrical content turns out be supremely enjoyable and smart as well, with some really catchy and memorable lines throughout the album.
Despite being at an arguable creative peak, not all was well with Overkill. Years of constant touring had taken it toll and tension within the band was at an all time high shortly after the albums release. Unfortunately this would be key songwriter and guitarist Bobby Gustafson's last effort with the band, as he would leave the following year. Nearly all of the material found here was written by Gustafson in a sixth month period, and is sad that the mastermind behind such a classic release nearly dropped off the face of the earth and is now a plumber in Florida. However, the man left behind some of the most memorable material in thrash history and will always have my respect.
The rest of the band sounds great, with some tight drum playing, grooving bass, and some seriously improved vocals from Bobby Blitz. On the Feel the Fire, Blitz opted for a cleaner singer voice, but throughout the years his voice became more raspy and rough resulting in a heavier sounding performance. However Blitz has a habit of being a bit over the top, and it certainly shows here. While the vocals here are an acquired taste and may turn some new listeners off, they remain very unique and recognizable.
While Overkill may have waned a bit in the 90's, "The Years of Decay" shows a young and talented band playing unique and compelling thrash the only way they knew how. There is no arguing the fact that this thrash classic will be enjoyed for many years to come. Despite the slightly rough vocals, this album will most certainly appeal to metal fans with an appreciation for classic thrash. If you haven't heard this album yet, do yourself a favor and give it a listen.
- Time to Kill
- Who Tends the Fire
- The Years of Decay
Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth - Vocals
Bobby Gustafson - Guitar
D.D. Verni - Bass
Sid Falck - Drums
Produced by: Terry Date, Overkill
Engineered by: Terry Date, Matt Lane
Mixed by: Terry Date
Mastered by: Howie Weinberg
Recorded: June-July 1989
Released: October 13, 1989
Label: Megaforce/Atlantic Records