Slayer Guitarist Jeff Hanneman Dies From Spider Bite Complications

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Musician Jeff Hanneman of Slayer performs onstage during The Big 4 held at the Empire Polo Club on April 23, 2011 in Indio, California (Getty Images)

Jeff Hanneman, founding guitarist of metal band Slayer, died yesterday at age 49. The band said in a statement posted yesterday, "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."

Hanneman had been suffering from liver failure related to a spider bite from a year ago. The bandchad mentioned, "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..."

Hanneman and Kerry King founded Slayer, one of the "Big Four" thrash metal bands, in the early 1980s. The LA Times says that Slayer's "furious riffs and chaotic bursts of power chords helped drive a revolution in heavy metal." And Rolling Stone writes:

Hanneman performed on every Slayer release to date, and wrote many of the band's career-defining songs, including "Angel of Death," "South of Heaven," "Raining Blood" and "War Ensemble." Hanneman and Kerry King perfected a fiery twin-lead guitar style that propelled Slayer to the forefront of the thrash metal movement of the early 1980s, where they were crowned as one of the genre's "Big Four," along with Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax.

Twin-guitar soloing was a hallmark of thrash metal from the start, but the particular brand of spiraling chaos that came from Hanneman and King's swapped leads created a more apocalyptic, uncontrollable atmosphere that helped set the band apart from its peers, who often opted for a more melodic approach. The band took pride in the distinction, with King telling Rolling Stone in 2009, "When we come on, it sounds like the world's going to end."