Saturday, May 4, 2013

Jeff Hanneman R.I.P. (1964 - 2013)

Words really cannot express what Jeff Hanneman's guitar playing prowess meant to me. This is the man that made thrash what it is today, death metal what it is today, black metal what it is today and even the current hodge-podge scene that we have now, still sees his influence. If you don't think that one man mattered so much to the world of heavy music, I will simply tell you to put on any metal record released in the past number of decades, be it the new Suffocation or the latest Between The Buried And Me. Even post-metallers Neurosis have roots in his riffs somewhere down the line and those licks can be traced all throughout the bloodstream of metal. Every retro-thrash band and even industrial acts like KMFDM have seen his influence, in their use of riffs from "Angel Of Death" on their staple "Godlike." The roots of his tree are virtually endless and even though the planter of that seed has fallen; this tree will continue to grow for ages to come, as metal keeps being perfected and refined. Hanneman was thrash, quite simply - "Raining Blood", "Angel Of Death", "War Ensemble", "South Of Heaven, "Silent Scream", "Dead Skin Mask", "Seasons In The Abyss", "New Faith" and "Disciple" all contained his riffs and have been covered in tribute by almost everyone - from Hatebreed to Children Of Bodom to even newer acts like blackened industrial avantgarde metallers, The CNK. Every metal fan there is, is at least aware of Reign In Blood; whether you think it's one of the best thrash albums ever made or overhyped schlock. But even if you consider Slayer and Hanneman to be themselves overrated, there's no doubting the influence that he had on the culture or heavy metal music. Mark my words - metal would not be what it is today, if not for Jeff's riffs.

One cannot say what his final outing will leave us with, as Slayer's next release is still under wraps. But I can assure you that it will be a great send-off for a heavy metal titan whose life was cut so tragically short. He was only 49 when he died, and didn't even reach middle age. Some have said it must have been all the drugs and alcohol that killed him, but Ozzy Osbourne is still among us despite having partaken in the same things and in much greater quantity. At any rate, I'm glad to say that his death was one of natural causes and not some sort of heinous act like the one that befell another of metal's legends, Dimebag Darell. It is true that we've lost many heavy metal heavyweights in the past years, but it is also true that new blood has risen from the ashes to approach the throne. No one will ever be as good as the greats, but that isn't to say that this new blood isn't noteworthy. Bands like Meshuggah, Opeth, Dark Tranquility, Nile, Behemoth, Dream Theater, Soilwork, Suffocation, Amon Amarth, Deicide, Cradle Of Filth and countless others that we often take for granted as well as the newer acts that you've got engrained into your skulls are also worthy of one day legendary status, maybe even living up to the rubric that Hanneman forged many years ago. But each one of these acts exerts the influence of Slayer and Jeff Hanneman, even if the younger heads aren't yet aware of it. Now is the time to get yourself acquainted with Slayer, if you have not done so yet.

Although I never knew Jeff Hanneman personally, I knew him in his riffs. Each and every one of them unmistakable, every solo branded with his signature. I knew him in Show No Mercy, I knew him in Haunting The Chapel, I knew him in Live Undead, I knew him in Hell Awaits, I knew him in South Of Heaven, I knew him in Seasons Of The Abyss and further on... I knew him through his legacy and that legacy will live on for many years to come. Mark my words.

Once again, take this as a reminder that tomorrow is never promised. We often take for granted that we'll wake up and we spend our lives doing menial labor or waste them sitting around being unproductive. Not that there's anything wrong with that - it's just that if you spent all day watching TV and it was some boring old reruns or something and you could've been doing something more enjoyable, but you didn't and then you died; wouldn't you have wished that you had done some great fucking things with your life? Jeff did. He fucking lived. He fucking traveled the world and played heavy metal to the people - all of the people. He got to see all the sides of life; he got to enjoy life's pleasures, experience life's pains. He didn't sit around waiting for something to happen, he made it happen. Honor his memory by doing something with your life, finding what it is that you're good at and riding that motherfucker out until your last day comes.

Jeff Hanneman did what he was meant to do. He revolutionized heavy metal music. What about you?

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