Jeff Hanneman, guitarist and founding member of thrash metal legends Slayer, has died earlier today of liver failure at the age of 49.

The band issued a statement on Hanneman’s death that read:

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)”

Hanneman co-founded the thrash titans, one of metal’s ‘Big Four’ with Kerry King in 1981, the guitarist wrote and co-wrote some of the band’s breakthrough titles on 1986’s Reign In Blood including ‘Angel of Death’ and ‘Raining Blood’ which went on to become the band’s signature tunes.

In recent months, Hanneman had been replaced by Exodus guitarist Gary Holt on touring duties due to his illness, first contracted from a spider bite on his arm in early 2011, leading to a health scare where he contracted a flesh-eating disease, necrotizing fasciitis – as SPIN reports.

According to an open letter from the band posted on their official website: “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.” As mMusic blogger Alan Cross notes, the guitarist was bed ridden, undergoing emergency surgery and gruesome skin graft treatments. Months of rehabilitation followed for Hanneman, and even though he played a Big Four show in California, he failed to rejoin the rest of Slayer for their subsequent touring commitments.

Hanneman was not part of the Slayer lineup when the band toured Australia in February off the back of Soundwave 2013 when the controversy surrounding the departure of long-term drummer Dave Lombardo was also announced, one of several band members to pull out of their respective acts ahead of the hard and heavy festival.

Lombardo indicated that he and his former bandmates were undergoing inter-personal issues, and particularly with co-founder Kerry King, who was also at the center of rumours that began circulating in March of this year that he had been out of contact with Hanneman for some time; including accusations that Slayer were “bailing” on their founding guitarist, as Metal Insider reported.

Hanneman’s sudden passing has come as a major shock to fans and the band alike, who had assumed that he was on the road to recovery. Slayer’s open letter posted on their website describes Hanneman’s gruelling road to recovery as well as noting that Gary Holt would “continue to fill in for Jeff, and will our with us until Jeff completes his rehab and is ready to return.” The post reads:

Slayer fans everywhere – it’s time to let you know what is going on with our brother Jeff Hanneman.
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. We were all excited when he joined us onstage for the encore a year ago at The Big Four show at Coachella. Since then, we’ve given him all the time and support he’s needed to continue his rehab so he can come back to the band fully recovered and able to deliver the kind of shows we all want him to.

While Jeff’s been doing some writing and has been coming to rehearsal over the past several weeks, he has decided he needs to take more time to continue his rehab. While we want him back onstage with the band, all of us support his decision. So, we’re very grateful that Gary Holt will continue to fill in for Jeff, and will tour with us until Jeff completes his rehab and is ready to return.

How long will that be? The best and most honest answer we can give you is ‘as long as it takes.’ We also wanted you to know that we’ve been doing some writing and recording for the next Slayer album – we’ve tracked a few songs, and will finish the album when we’re off the road later this year. Gary will join us on tour in Europe and the UK in May and June, and then we’ll all see you on this Summer’s Mayhem Festival.

Tributes to the influential thrash metal legend have already begun pouring in over social media.

Twitter / ScruffyDKM: The lead guitar player to my ...

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