By now most of you know that Jeff Hanneman, the Grammy-winning guitarist for Slayer passed away May 2nd of liver failure at 49. A founding member of Slayer, Jeff contributed lyrics and music to every single Slayer release including the big ones; “Raining Blood,” “South of Heaven,” “Seasons in the Abyss” and “Angel of Death.”
Angel of Death created a benchmark for metal lyrics that few bands have come close to matching, the aggressive biography of German doctor Josef Mengele who performed horrific experiments on prisoners at the Auschwitz death camp. “I know why people misrepresent it,” he told one radio interviewer. “It’s because they get a knee-jerk reaction to it. There’s nothing I put in the lyrics that says necessarily he was a bad man because to me — well, isn’t it obvious? I shouldn’t have to tell you that.”
Anyone who knows me personally knows that I’m a huge Slayer, in fact, I’m wearing a Slayer shirt as I type this so it should be of no surprise to mention that the music they’ve created has been a part of my life since the 80s. Most hiphop fans should also recognize the mark they’ve left on rap music as well. From their debut on Def Jam produced by Rick Rubin (and his name is attached to every other Slayer release) to Kerry playing “No Sleep ’til Brooklyn” to Public Enemy sampling “Angel of Death” for “She Watches Channel Zero” to Dave playing with DJ Spooky and Chuck D. on “B-Side Wins Again” to uhm, Lil’ Jon rhyming over the Rick Rubin produced “Stop Fuckin’ Wit Me.”
I’ve referenced Slayer in my songs and always list them as a major influence on my music, Hanneman is a major reason for that. He was the long-haired dude with the Raiders jersey who was a monster on the guitar, unfortunately the past few years have been difficult for him after contracting necrotizing fasciitis 2 years ago, likely caused by a spider bite and possibly the reason for his eventual liver failure. He nearly lost his arm and has been unable to tour or record with the band, in fact the band has been moving forward with their new album in his absence.
Slayer isn’t dead. Slayer will live on through the legacy Hanneman helped create.