Five years ago today Jeff Hanneman of Slayer died. It still seems impossible to grasp that we lost a thrash metal titan. Although Slayer has soldiered on without their fallen brother, it seems fair that they are looking at retirement soon. Ghost Cult has written a lot of words over the years espousing the devout respect that Jeff deserves both as a writer and player in the halls of thrash metal greatness, but also what he has meant to the scene as a personality, in both life and death. What follows is a collection of Jeff’s greatest Slayer hits as well as our original obituary, written at the time of his passing. Rest In Power Jeff!
Excerpted from Ghost Cult’s original Hanneman tribute in 2013:
“I can’t believe I just wrote the words Jeff Hanneman, legendary guitarist of Slayer, passed away; but I did. I really didn’t want to believe it was true and me being ever the skeptic, I was sure Slayer’s Facebook page was hacked and this was a sick joke. But it wasn’t. Jeff Hanneman really passed away yesterday at the young at of 49 from liver failure, with a lot of life in him and many riffs we won’t get to hear.
Jeffrey John Hanneman was born in Oakland, California in 1964, but grew up in the Southern California town of Long Beach. Growing up in a family full of military veterans, including his father, sparked a lifelong fascination with war, warfare and the repercussions of it on society. His curiosity would later lead some to charge Slayer with prejudice and Nazi-ism, but that has all been squashed over time. Even as a young man, Jeff felt the pull of metal and of classic metal bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest which he later bonded with Kerry King over. A young Jeff was drawn to the anger and discontent of early Hardcore Punk bands such as D.R.I, Minor Threat, Discharge, GBH, Bad Brains, Suicidal Tendencies and his local favorites, T.S.O.L. This left an indelible mark on Jeff’s writing in Slayer, and of course led to the making of the covers album Undisputed Attitude in 1995. In addition to punk covers and one original Slayer song, the album featured four Jeff-penned songs from his aborted punk rock side project/supergroup Pap Smear, which would have featured Dave Lombardo and Rocky George.
Jeff will of course forever be remembered by Slayer fans and fans of thrash metal in general for his lyrics, riffs and solos that punctuate most of the classic band’s most prominent hits. ‘Angel Of Death’ arguably the best and most recognized song of the classic thrash era. Of course also wrote the music and or lyrics to some of the all-time great metal songs such as ‘Raining Blood’, ‘War Ensemble’, ‘Seasons In The Abyss’, ‘South Of Heaven’, ‘Dead Skin Mask’, ‘Disciple’ and many more. What really impresses me thinking about him is how Jeff wrote many of the most underrated songs in the bands’ catalog: songs like ‘Spirit In Black’, ‘Hardening Of the Arteries’, ‘213’, ‘Behind The Crooked Cross’, my personal favorite, ‘Die By The Sword’. He also wrote most of the excellent songs on his last album, World Painted Blood. As a lead guitarist, along with King, he forged a style that broke out of the typical box of typical Pentatonic scale, blues players to play solos that mirrored the chaos of the songs and the subject matter. Doing that style at the height of early 80s shred, was brave stuff for the times, indeed. The sound of his leads will always be unmistakable.
This musical legacy he has left behind is essential to the history of the genre and can never be undone. Jeff was glad to stalk his side of the stage, feel the roar of the wall of amps behind him and the crowd out in front of him going apeshit. He was glad to share the spotlight rather, than muscle into it and take it over. His style was undeniable. His scowling face of hatred and an evil joy as he soloed his fingers into oblivion is something I will remember, always.