To date, all songs from The Years of Decay have been played live except "Nothing to Die For". According to frontman Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth, the final track, "E.vil N.ever D.ies", is a continuation of the self-titled "Overkill" series of songs from the band's three previous albums, but was not named "Overkill IV"; this would be the last song of the series until Immortalis (2007), which features the most recent part in "Overkill V... The Brand".
AllMusic's Jason Anderson gave The Years of Decay a positive review, awarding it four stars out of five. He called it a "classic by the group's fans" and that it "is often mentioned as the pinnacle of the East Coast thrashers' recording career". The album reached No. 155 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and remained on that chart for eight weeks, making it Overkill's fourth highest-charting release to date. As of May 2000 it had sold over 67,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan.
In August 2014, Revolver magazine placed the album on its list of "14 Thrash Albums You Need to Own".