Slayer guitarist and founding member Jeff Hanneman died earlier today in Southern California. He was 49.
Hanneman formed Slayer with Kerry King and Dave Lombardo in 1981, and they quickly recruited Tom Araya to round out the band. Slayer was considered one of the "Big Four" thrash metal acts to come out of the 1980s (along with Anthrax, Megadeth, and Metallica). Like all good heavy metal bands, Slayer was controversial, at times being accused of being pro-Nazi, white supremacists, Satanists, anti-religious, and encouraging violence through their lyrics. Hanneman in particular brought war and military themes to the lyrics he wrote. Slayer has released 10 studio albums since 1983, and won Grammys in 2007 and 2008 for Best Metal Performance. They have been nominated an additional three times.
Hanneman was born in Oakland, California in 1964. In 2011 he contracted necrotizing fasciitis - sometimes called the flesh-eating disease - which rapidly eats away at the skin and tissue. Hanneman retired from full-time touring, though both he and his bandmates were hopeful that Hanneman would return to performing. In 2012, Araya said that Hanneman was "free of the disease" and was "working on his playing ability... He's working on strengthening his arm and his ability to play." He predicted that Slayer would "probably get together and start writing together and start making a new album," the group's first since 2009's World Painted Blood, with Hanneman contributing material. But in February guitarist Kerry King told Australian press that "we don't know when Jeff's gonna be able to play guitar. Jeff's kind of like a wait-and-see thing."
Hanneman's cause of death is officially listed as liver failure. It is not clear what - if any - role the disease played in his death. He is survived by his wife Kathy, a sister, and two brothers.