Spirit In Metal: A Tribute To Slayer Guitarist, Jeff Hanneman
Band Photo: Slayer (?)
Yesterday, the news broke that the world of heavy metal had lost a true giant. The death of Slayer guitarist, Jeff Hanneman was a shock to many followers of metal, and especially for fans of the band, who are known to be amongst the most manically devoted in the history of music.
Almost immediately after people learned of the news, fans of Jeff and Slayer celebrated in a fashion befitting of the man: By getting drunk and blasting "Reign In Blood" as loud as they could. Hanneman's death is arguably the hardest hitting news since Ronnie James Dio passed away three years ago, and perhaps the biggest shock to thrash fans since Metallica bass player Cliff Burton was killed in an automobile accident in 1986, and at only 49 years of age, he will be considered by many to have been taken from us too soon.
Jeff Hanneman's journey began on January 31st 1964, when he was born in Oakland, California to a German father who fought for the Allies in the Second World War. This, along with the participation of his brothers in the Vietnam war, forged a lifelong interest in all things military for Jeff, a subject he would regularly cover in his lyrical contributions to Slayer. In 1981, Hanneman went to audition for a local band where he met another young guitarist named Kerry King. The two got on well and began jamming covers of songs by the likes of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, before deciding to form their own band, the lineup of which was completed by the addition of King's former Quits bandmate Tom Araya, and pizza delivery guy, Dave Lombardo. Hanneman stated that one of his favourite memories of the early days was whenever people booed them, assured by his confidence to actually get on stage and perform. Of the four members, he was the one who enjoyed punk music the most, a genre he claimed he "forced" onto Dave Lombardo to the point where in 1984, the two of them, along with future Suicidal Tendencies guitarist Rocky George, formed a punk band named, Pap Smear, which folded a year later on the advice of producer, Rick Rubin.
His contributions to Slayer would prove to be massive, as he wrote or co-wrote many of the classics in the group's catalogue, forming a good writing partnership with frontman, Tom Araya. Some of the songs he penned included, "Raining Blood," "Angel of Death," "South of Heaven" and "Mandatory Suicide." His stage presence was also memorable, despite it being a relatively simple one. In much the same way one can instantly recognise the arched figure of Motorhead frontman, Lemmy or the posing tilt of Megadeth's, Dave Mustaine, Jeff Hanneman's messy blonde hair, helped along by rhythmic headbanging and interspersed with a warlike expression towards the audience, made him a real fixation on stage.
In the past two years, Hanneman had been suffering from ill health, which doctors put down to being bitten by a spider. The bite caused Necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating bacteria syndrome) and meant he was forced to sit out while Slayer toured with a replacement, with his position most often being filled by Exodus guitarist, Gary Holt. According to Tom Araya, Hanneman had recovered from the disease by February of last year, but Kerry King stated afterwards that other health problems were preventing him from returning to the band.
Sadly, these health issues mounted and yesterday morning, Jeff Hanneman passed away in a hospital near his home in Southern California. At the moment however, it should not be dwelled upon what caused his death, and instead fans should reflect on the life and career, of one of the most gifted musicians in the history of thrash metal, whose songs gave an outlet of aggression for many of us.
January 31st 1964 - May 2nd 2013
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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