Guitarist Jeff Hanneman, founding member of heavy metal band Slayer, dies

American thrash metal guitarist Jeff Hanneman, a member of the seminal heavy metal band Slayer, has died aged 49 from liver failure in Southern California.

Hanneman, who wrote songs “Raining Blood” and “Angel of Death”, had spent most of 2011 battling a flesh-eating disease contracted after he was bitten by a spider. Photo: Kyle Bunkin /Flickr

Jeff Hanneman, a guitarist for the thrash metal band Slayer, died Thursday of liver failure, the band announced in a statement on its website.

The 49-year-old founding member of Slayer was hospitalized in Southern California, according to the band’s Facebook page.

“Slayer is devastated to inform that their bandmate and brother, Jeff Hanneman, passed away at about 11 a.m. this morning near his Southern California home. Hanneman was in an area hospital when he suffered liver failure,” the band said in a statement posted on its website and Facebook page.

“He is survived by his wife Kathy, his sister Kathy and his brothers Michael and Larry, and will be sorely missed.”

The musician hadn’t been on the road with Slayer since 2011, when he contracted necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating disease, most likely brought on by a spider bite. It’s unclear whether that illness was connected to his death.

He subsequently underwent several operations to remove the dead and dying tissue from his arm and pulled out of his group’s 2012 tour dates to continue his treatment.

Hanneman founded Slayer with fellow guitarist Kerry King in the early 1980s. The group was among the “big four” thrash metal groups of the era alongside Megadeth, Metallica and Anthrax.

Its breakthrough came five years later with the release of “Reign in Blood,” an album that included two songs  -“Angel of Death” and “Raining Blood” – co-written by Hanneman, says CNN.

Hanneman’s life changed considerably after he was bitten by a spider three years ago. An open letter published on the band’s website in 2011 described the devastating physical impact the bite had on him.

It said:

“As you know, Jeff was bitten by a spider more than a year ago, but what you may not have known was that for a couple of days after he went to the ER, things were touch-and-go. There was talk that he might have to have his arm amputated, and we didn’t know if he was going to pull through at all.”

He was in a medically-induced coma for a few days and had several operations to remove the dead and dying tissue from his arm.

So, understand, he was in really, really bad shape. It’s been about a year since he got out of the hospital, and since then, he had to learn to walk again, he’s had several painful skin grafts, he’s been in rehab doing exercises to regain the strength in his arm; but best of all, he’s been playing guitar.”

In 2011  bassist and singer Tom Araya said: “Jeff was seriously ill. Jeff ended up contracting a bacteria that ate away his flesh on his arm, so they cut open his arm, from his wrist to his shoulder, and they did a skin graft on him, they cleaned up.

“It was a flesh-eating virus, so he was really, really bad.”

Fellow musicians quickly tweeted their condolences. “RIP TO A TITAN OF METAL,” wrote Disturbed vocalist David Draiman on Twitter.

Dave Mustaine, frontman of Megadeth, tweeted: “Tonight one less star will be shining and sadly, the stage got just a little bit darker. Jeff Hanneman 1964-2013.”

Black Label Society and Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zykk Wylde wrote, “RIP brother. You will be missed.”

The news also spurred thousands of die-hard fans to comment about Hanneman on Slayer’s Facebook page.

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