By Jon Wiederhorn
Following a week of speculation that Slayer’s co-founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman died May 2 of complications arising from a recluse spider bite, the official cause of death was announced today (Thursday, May 9) to be alcohol-related cirrhosis.
"We've just learned that the official cause of Jeff's death was alcohol-related cirrhosis," read a statement on Slayer's website. "While he had his health struggles over the years, including the recent necrotizing fasciitis infection that devastated his well-being, Jeff and those close to him were not aware of the true extent of his liver condition until the last days of his life."
Alcohol-related cirrhosis of the liver is a disease in which healthy liver tissue is gradually replaced with scar tissue, which over time prevents the organ from functioning properly. According to WebMD, the scar tissue "blocks the flow of blood through the liver and slows the processing of nutrients, hormones, drugs, and naturally produced toxins. It also slows the production of proteins and other substances made by the liver."
Rather than dwell on the cause of Hanneman's death or the pain he suffered in the last two years of his life--which included numerous skin graft surgeries to combat damage caused by the flesh-eating infection he developed from a spider bite--Slayer are planning a celebration of Hanneman's life. The event will take place later this month. The guitarist’s family, friends, and bandmates will be present, and the public will be invited to attend.
For now, the members of Slayer are dealing with their grief by remembering the fun they had over the years with Hanneman, posting memories on the band's website.
"I had so many great times with Jeff," said guitarist Kerry King. "In the early days when we were out on the road, he and I were the night owls, and we would stay up all night on the bus, just hanging out, talking, watching movies--World War II movies, horror movies, we watched Full Metal Jacket so many times, we could practically recite all of the dialogue."
Vocalist and bassist Tom Araya recalled the earliest days of Slayer and the band’s diligent work ethic. "When we first formed, we used to rehearse all the time, religiously, 24/7," he said. "Jeff and I spent a lot of time hanging out together. He lived in my father's garage which was also our rehearsal space. I miss those early days."
King remembered what a war historian Hanneman was and how he knew everything about World War II. "His father served in that war, so when Slayer played Russia for the first time--I think it was 1998--Jeff and I went to one of Moscow's military museums," the guitarist said. "I'll never forget him walking around that place, looking at all of the tanks, weapons, and other exhibits. He was like a kid on Christmas morning. But that was Jeff's thing, he knew so much about WW II history, he could have taught it in school."
Araya said that when the band was in New York in 1988 recording South of Heaven, he and Hanneman looked so intimidating walking down the street that they couldn’t get a cab to pull over for them in the rain. "We had to get to the studio--I think it was called Chung King, a real rundown place. So we left the hotel and decided to walk, but then it started raining," Araya posted. "We walked maybe five blocks, and it was raining so hard, we were totally soaked, so we decided to get a cab. Here we are, two dudes with long hair and leather jackets, absolutely soaked, thumbing to the studio. No one would stop. We had to walk the entire way."
In a recent post on his Facebook, drummer Dave Lombardo wrote: "Jeff was the guy that shaved his head and shared the music he was so inspired by. I enjoyed Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, and the Germs with him. My drumming was getting faster and Jeff was writing original songs with a Punk attitude. The fusion of Heavy Metal and Punk took over Slayer's early mediocre style; hence a new force was born. Thank you Jeff for your inspiring discovery of Punk rock that has continued to shape my personal drumming style."
"Jeff was a lifeline of Slayer,” added Araya. "He wrote so many of the songs that the band will always be known for. He had a good heart. He was a good guy."