Jeff Hanneman, founding guitarist of the GRAMMY-winning thrash metal band Slayer, died of liver failure on May 2 in Los Angeles. He was 49. Heralded as one of the "Big 4" influential metal bands (along with Anthrax, Megadeth and Metallica), Slayer issued their debut album, Show No Mercy, in 1983. The quartet — bassist/vocalist Tom Araya, guitarists Hanneman and Kerry King, and drummer Dave Lombardo — quickly garnered a reputation for their extreme thrash metal style and graphic lyrics. The band teamed with GRAMMY-winning producer Rick Rubin to record a series of seminal metal albums, Hell Awaits (1985), Reign In Blood (1986), South Of Heaven (1988), and Seasons In The Abyss (1990). Hanneman, who was a key ingredient in the band's signature heavy guitar sound, co-wrote many of the band's live set staples, including "Raining Blood," "Mandatory Suicide" and "South Of Heaven," and, on his own, "Angel Of Death." Slayer earned their first career GRAMMY in 2006 for Best Metal Performance for "Eyes Of The Insane." The band earned the same award in 2007 for "Final Six," joining Metallica as the only band to win the category in consecutive years. In 2009 Slayer released their most recent studio album, World Painted Blood, and the title track earned them their fifth career GRAMMY nomination. In 2011 Hanneman took a leave of absence from the band after falling ill from the flesh-eating disease necrotizing fasciitis. Slayer have reportedly been at work on a new studio album, tentatively due in 2013.
"Jeff Hanneman was an intense and powerful guitarist and a force to be reckoned with onstage," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. "The music industry has lost a true trailblazer."