Black Friday – A Look Back at Jeff Hanneman

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To say it has been a weird day would be a vast fucking understatement. I spent the day in the hospital, watching one of the nicest people I know lay in his hospital bed as his body is trying to heal.

Family members and friends got into car accidents today. I head to the 930 Club, my musical home away from home, to see Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite rip up some blues.

I had been at the club for maybe 10 minutes, when my friend Sam comes up and says “DUDE. Did you hear about Jeff Hanneman?”

My natural response is to spout out what I already know: he is sick, he is taking a break from Slayer to heal, etc. The last thing I expected to hear today was “Dude…he died.”

I pretty much blocked it out. Overload. Way too much to process after the day I had. I am already delving deep into my soul thinking about my mortality, then this…this is JEFF HANNEMAN. GUITARIST OF SLAYER. SLAYER. This cannot be.

As soon as he told me, we both looked at my Facebook timeline, and almost every single post was about Jeff’s passing. Friends of mine pouring out their condolences. Bands I love and follow expressing their shock and disbelief.

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Friends posting their favorite Slayer videos in tribute to the fallen metal hero. For a few hours, I just blocked it out. I listened to some blues, let the day’s heavy events wash away, yet here I sit. The show is over, I am sitting in my bed, and I am thinking of every amazing Slayer riff (there are plenty of them) and am just in shock.

When I first started listening to heavier metal, the real thrash stuff, Metallica was my first, then I discovered Anthrax, and the next band I heard was Slayer. One guitarist wore bracelets made of huge nails, and the other guitarist, his California surferesque blonde hair setting him apart from the others, wearing his iconic trademark Raiders jersey and wielding a Heineken guitar.  I heard Angel of Death, and holy shit, I had never heard anything so fast and heavy in my life.

This was groundbreaking, mindblowing, earth-shattering shit. NO ONE on Earth had riffs like these, solos this frenetic, lyrics this evil….I was FLOORED. Then I heard Raining Blood.

That creepy thunderstorm, eerie guitar sounds, and then THAT RIFF. This was the most fucking evil riff I had ever heard in my life. When people describe hearing Black Sabbath’s tri-tone riff in the song Black Sabbath, they described the most evil thing they had ever heard. Raining Blood’s main riff is our generation’s tri-tone.

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It is truly the most awesome, evil guitar riff ever recorded. I DARE you not to bang your head after Tom screams, “AWAITING THE HOUR OF REPRISAL…YOUR TIME SLIPS AWAY” DUH-DUH…DUH-DUH…DUH-DUH.

From there, I checked out the old stuff, and found even more raw metal like At Dawn They Sleep

and Die By the Sword

These guys were amazing, heavy and brutal. I was totally hooked.

Then in 1988, South of Heaven came out. In another move of legendary metal riffdom, Mandatory Suicide blew out of my speakers, and the bar was once again raised.

Other amazing songs like South of Heaven, Silent Scream, and Ghosts of War were on this album, making it a definite metal classic.

Then Seasons in the Abyss came out. Not quite as fast and brutal, but with catchier yet still heavy songs, this quickly grew to be my favorite Slayer album. War Ensemble started things out brutal, but Blood Red started, and HOLY SHIT. After the intro, the main riff of the song just blows me away.

Then the album continued on with songs like Spirit in Black,

Skeletons of Society,

and the epic closing track, Seasons in the Abyss.

Seasons would quickly become my favorite Slayer album, ever, and remains so to this day.

They have had some awesome stuff since then, never really deviating from the Slayer gameplan. Truly a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Still, none of the modern albums, as good as they were, really captured that old Slayer black magic, that spark.

Until World Painted Blood.

World Painted Blood seemed to raise the bar back up for Slayer.

Then, in 2011, Jeff was bitten by a spider, and contracted necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating disease. The band made the decision to carry on while Jeff healed, with Exodus guitarist and Bay Area thrash brother Gary Holt filling in on guitar. Gary was never intended to be a permanent member, just helping keep Slayer going until Jeff could return to battle. Gary, in many fans’ opinions, did a damn fine job filling those shoes.

Just last year, Jeff had been joining Slayer in the studio now and then, when his health allowed. They quickly got the word out to the masses, and a return seemed likely at some point. After months of healing, Jeff surprised everyone and joined Slayer onstage during the encore at the Big 4 show in Indio, CA. In his first appearance back, Jeff played South of Heaven and Angel of Death with the band, and a return seemed like a sure thing at this point.

Then, the announcement. On May 2, 2013, Slayer posted this message on their official Facebook page:

Slayer is devastated to inform that their bandmate and brother, Jeff Hanneman, passed away at about 11AM this morning near his Southern California home. Hanneman was in an area hospital when he suffered liver failure. He is survived by his wife Kathy, his sister Kathy and his brothers Michael and Larry, and will be sorely missed.

Our Brother Jeff Hanneman, May He Rest In Peace (1964 – 2013)

Jeff was only 49. A metal guitar legend, gone, just like that. I have a feeling there will be a weekend full of Slayer albums and beers raised in honor over the next few days by many a Slayer fan. Here I am, the next morning, finishing typing this post that I started at midnight last night. I’m listening to Reign in Blood, and I am still in disbelief. Still trying to grasp that he is gone, never to step foot on stage again.

It sounds hokey or cliche, but we never know how long we have on this earth. Everything could change in the blink of an eye, whether it is a car accident or something as seemingly mundane as a spider bite. Now go turn on some Slayer, turn it way up and drink a toast to our fallen metal brother. Rest in peace, Jeff.

ripjeffh

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2 Responses to “Black Friday – A Look Back at Jeff Hanneman”

  1. Well spoken. Slayer was it for me. Discovered Reign In Blood in 7th grade and put the tape in while my mom drove me home from the record store. I was fucking blown away. I’d been listening to Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax but this was brutal. Dark, ferocious and evil. In 8th grade South of Heaven came out and again I was blown away. Slayer back patches, Slayer in art class (which resulted in many F’s as the teacher didn’t share my appreciation for pentagrams and inverted crosses) and blasting Slayer everywhere we were. 10th grade my friend Mark and I would drive to school every fucking day with Angel of Death as the song to begin the monotony of the educational system. Every fucking day. Then Seasons came out. Mark and I drove for hours just listening and raging out. My friend Carole and I went to see them for Seasons at Painters Mill. I think my new Slayer shirt got ripped in half in the first 5 minutes of the pit. What a crazy show. I still remember the auditorium being painted in red while the red police lights spun on top of the speaker stacks. Years go by and my oldest son wants to go to his first concert. Well what better way to introduce him to live metal than seeing fucking Slayer. We took him to Merriweather Post for Slayer and he ran his ass off thrashing in the lawn while Slayer beat the hell out everyone on stage. Just fucking awesome. Now my youngest is wearing out the speakers with some Slayer. I don’t think there is another band out there that has influenced my moods and personality as Slayer. Jeff Hanneman will always be one of my favorite guitarists along with Gary Holt and Dave Mustaine. The riffs are fucking legendary. You catch a second of a song and you know right away who you’re listening to. R.I.P Jeff Hanneman. You will always be remembered as a true fucking metal god.

  2. Brian, I remember those days well. REALLY wish I had been at that Painters Mill show.Great metal memories indeed! \m/

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