Social media is good for lots of things. One of them is delivering bad news. I switched on my phone this morning only to see that Jeff Hanneman was trending on Twitter, and being that it was very unlikely that Jeff Hanneman happened to be a candidate for UKIP, I immediately feared the worst. The Slayer guitarist had died of liver failure after battling, of all things, a flesh-eating disease which he’d contracted from a spider bite. He was 49 years old, an age which, in the grand scheme of things, is really fuck all.
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It may seem cheap to mourn someone you dont know, that you never even met, but I still feel sad writing this. Slayer were such an important band in my life and Jeff Hanneman was its creative heartbeat. His music soundtracked more moments of my existence than I can count. It was the jolt that got me through a morning walk to school and it was the pep pill I needed to get me fired up before a night out. It was innumerable moments of joy and celebration at bars, clubs and gigs. Jeff is gone for good now, and while his bandmates soldier on, we’ll never get to see him pick up a guitar and unleash that dazzling, white-knuckle squall of noise ever again.
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Jeff Hanneman was a powerhouse of creative ability, a self-taught, progressive devotee of hardcore punk who had the Black Flag logo on his guitar long before it became cool to do so. It was his influence that helped mould Slayer into the precision instrument of fury that they would become. He wrote one of their best (and to my mind, most underrated) albums, Diabolus In Musica, more or less entirely by himself. His admirers ranged from Metallica to Ice-T. His influence cannot be measured or contained or categorised, it is simply everywhere. Jeff ruled. He still rules.
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It’s a sad day, but we’ll always have that amazing music to listen to. I’m going to see some noisy bands tonight and I will be there, pint in hand, surrounded by my friends, enjoying every single jagged riff and frenzied blast beat. It is, I suspect, what Jeff would have wanted. Here’s to you, brother, you will be missed. Thanks for all the shredding.