Jeff Hanneman, a founding member of Slayer and key figure in American thrash metal, has died. He was 49.
Born in Oakland and raised in Long Beach, California, Hanneman developed an early interest in warfare and the military: his father was a Normandy veteran, and his brothers served in Vietnam. This interest would inform much of Slayer's aesthetic, with their metal eagle logo leading some to wonder if the band were Nazi sympathizers. As with a lot of things heavy metal, it was just a visual thing.
Hanneman formed Slayer in 1981 with fellow guitarist Kerry King and drummer Dave Lombardo. Hanneman and King bonded over the shared affinity for New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Combined with Hanneman's pronounced interest in speedy West Coast punk bands - his guitars frequently bore Dead Kennedys, Black Flag and Johnny Rotten stickers - Slayer's speedy, aggressive strain of metal was born.
Hanneman contributed lyrics and music to every Slayer record, and has writing credits on a number of the band's signature tunes: Raining Blood, Angel of Death, South Of Heaven, and more.
In 2011, Hanneman contracted necrotizing fasciitis (more commonly, flesh-eating disease) after being bitten by a spider. He stopped touring with the band, and in February of this year King revealed that Hanneman was suffering from continuing health problems. He passed away at hospital in southern California late yesterday, with the cause of death noted as liver failure. It's unclear at this time how this relates to his necrotizing fasciitis diagnoses.
Hanneman is being remembered in the metal community today, by colleagues as well as fans. But maybe comedian Rob Delaney, a noted metal-head, said it best:
Lombardo pounds the skins in darkness, hands bloodied, driving Hanneman's soul into the churning inferno.#SLAAAAAAAYER
- rob delaney (@robdelaney) May 3, 2013