R.I.P. Slayer Guitarist Jeff Hanneman (1964-2013)

Jeff Hanneman of Slayer.

Grief and shock rippled through the heavy metal community yesterday at the late-breaking news that founding Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman had died at the age of 49. The band released a terse statement on their official website, Slayer.net, yesterday afternoon saying “Slayer is devastated to inform that their bandmate and brother, Jeff Hanneman, passed away at about 11AM this morning near his Southern California home. Hanneman was in an area hospital when he suffered liver failure. He is survived by his wife Kathy, his sister Kathy and his brothers Michael and Larry, and will be sorely missed. Our Brother Jeff Hanneman, May He Rest In Peace (1964 – 2013)”.

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Formed in Southern California in 1981, Slayer are considered one of “The Big Four” of thrash metal alongside Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax. While their compatriots broadened their sound and expanded their audience, Slayer doubled down on speed and aggression, remaining true to the genre’s roots and inspiring fanatical loyalty from their fans. Their 1986 masterpiece Reign In Blood remains the benchmark by which all other extreme metal is judged and is considered by many to be the greatest thrash metal record of all time. Subsequent bands would attempt to play faster and heavier but none would ever match the band and album’s malicious delivery and military grade execution.

Over the course of 11 studio albums and countless carnage-inducing tours, the band was second only to Metallica in terms of popularity in 80s metal circles, and went on to win Grammys in 2006 and 2007 for Best Metal Performance. Hanneman had stopped touring with the band in 2011 after contracting the rare and debilitating skin disease necrotizing fasciitis, possibly the result of a spider bite. Earlier this year his health had taken a turn for the worse though it is not known at this time whether the disease was responsible in any way for his death.

VH1 Classic will be honoring the memory of Jeff Hanneman all weekend long, and will be running a special showing of The Big 4 Live from Sofia, Bulgaria on Saturday night at 10/9C. This performance was shot in June of 2010 and is one of the last concerts where Hanneman played with the band.

[Photo: Getty Images]