In Memoriam: Slayer’s Jeff Hanneman (1/31/64 – 5/2/13)

After several years of heavy listening to Slayer and experiencing them live twice, it was deeply saddening to learn that guitarist Jeff Hanneman passed away last Thursday.  For the past two years, he dealt with necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating disease of sorts, presumably caused by a spider bite.  However, the official cause of death was liver failure.  The Daily Beast explains that the necrotizing fasciitis most likely did not cause the liver failure, but rather the opposite.  Author Kent Sepkowitz suggests that Hanneman may have had a condition such as chronic liver disease that would have increased the risk to develop the necrotizing fasciitis.

The background of Hanneman’s medical situation is not the main concern here, though.  The renowned and well-respected guitarist was only 49 years old.  Although Exodus’ Gary Holt has been covering Hanneman’s position for the last couple years or so, fans always have hope, especially metalhead fans.  Despite Holt’s allegedly excellent substitute performances, he is/was just that – a substitute for Jeff.  As Holt creates killer music for Exodus, Hanneman similarly put a heavy mark on that of Slayer.

While Slayer went back and forth primarily between Paul Bostaph and Dave Lombardo on drums, the remaining three pieces of the four-piece thrash metal band stayed pretty stable.  Still, the band was arguably in its top form with Lombardo at the kit.  Many thrash metal fans acknowledge Slayer’s Reign In Blood as one of the best thrash records of all-time.  It is also noted as an album that defined the thrash metal genre.  Add Haunting the Chapel, Hell Awaits, and South of Heaven into the mix and it shows why Slayer are so widely appreciated.  They single-handedly planted the seeds for even darker and more evil metal music to emerge.  The band is still known as the “heaviest band on the planet” by many fans and friends.  Steve “Zetro” Souza (Hatriot, ex-Legacy, ex-Exodus, ex-Tenet, etc.) was actually the one who pounded that thought into my head during an interview I conducted a few years ago.

Anyway, Hanneman played a huge role in making Slayer so evil.  His creepy guitar riffs and intricate dueling solos with Kerry King, accompanied by Tom Araya’s aggressive shouts and Lombardo’s double-bass kicks, made for the heaviest, darkest, non-Satanic but very evil, thrash metal music ever.  Whether or not Slayer choose to move on, Hanneman will always be missed.


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