January 31, 1964 – May 2, 2013
Sad news today in the rock world as it has now been confirmed that Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman died Thursday from liver failure at a hospital near his Inland Empire area home. It is not yet known whether the rare skin disease Hanneman contracted two years ago contributed to his passing. He was 49.
Born in Oakland, California – and a devoted Raiders fan – Hanneman was raised primarily in Long Beach and became captivated with wars and the military – themes he would bring to Slayer’s music – through his father, a World War II veteran, and brothers who served in Vietnam.
He met Future Slayer co-founder and guitarist Kerry King in 1981 and decided to form their own band, mixing heavy metal and punk influences and signing with Metal Blade Records for Slayer's first two albums, "Show No Mercy" in 1983 and "Hell Awaits" in 1985. The group made an eyebrow-raising move to the hip-hop label Def Jam in 1986 for the covers album "Undisputed Attitude and the classic "Reign in Blood."
Slayer has released seven more studio albums and two live albums, as well as a pair of EPs. They've sold 4.9 million albums in the SoundScan era (1991-present), with the classics "Reign in Blood" (1986), "South of Heaven" (1988) and "Seasons of the Abyss" (1990) accounting for over 2 million of that tally. Ten of their albums have charted on the Billboard 200, with 2006's "Christ Illusion" being the highest debut at No. 5.
Slayer made the news public on Thursday afternoon, announcing that the band "is devastated" and calling Hanneman, who was 49, their bandmate and brother. Twitter quickly filled with messages from fans and fellow musicians, many of whom were in Los Angeles for the 5th Annual Revolver Golden Gods Awards show at Club Nokia. Disturbed/Device frontman David Draiman was among the very first, posting "RIP TO A TITAN OF METAL," while drummer Mike Portnoy wrote, "WOW...I'm in shock...RIP Jeff Hanneman."
Hanneman has been off the road since early 2011, when he contracted necrotizing fasciitis -- most likely from a spider bite -- a quick-progressing disease that literally eats away at the flesh from deep layers of skin and tissue. Exodus' Gary Holt stood in for Hanneman starting in February of 2011, while Pat O'Brien joined the band when Holt returned to Exodus during 2011.
The news hits especially close to home for those of us here in Southern California who grew up amidst the underground thrash metal scene with the likes of early Metallica, Megadeth and, certainly, Slayer. He will be greatly missed.