If you’ve been lucky enough to catch any of the performances on Slayer’s ongoing farewell tour, you have seen how the 2013 death of founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman is still very much on the band’s collective minds.
Former Exodus member Gary Holt, who was initially hired to fill in for Hanneman for the band’s live shows before being invited in as permanent member, plays a guitar festooned with a faux-Heineken logo made in tribute to the late axeman. And the setlist for these shows is filled with songs that Hanneman wrote for the group, like “Raining Blood” and “Angel of Death.”
The guitarist’s death is still very much weighing on Slayer’s former drummer Dave Lombardo, as well. Today, Metal Hammer published a tribute Lombardo penned in honor of his late bandmate, a poignant but unflinching portrait of their friendship and the issues that caused Hanneman’s untimely death.
The piece tracks their musical and personal relationship starting with their first meeting in 1981 during early Slayer rehearsals, emphasizing how much Hanneman was the architect for the band’s early thrash metal sound.
“We were into the typical metal of the time – Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Rainbow, Deep Purple, you know?”, Lombardo writes. “Then one day Jeff shows up to rehearsal with a shaved head. We were all, like, “Whoa, Jeff, what’d you do?!” He went: “I’m punk. It’s over.” And he brought all of this music with him: some vinyl, some cassettes – Black Flag, TSOL, Minor Threat, Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks. I was, like, “Wow, what rock have I been under? This is fantastic!” It was a huge pivot point – our songs became faster, more aggressive after that. He was the one that brought that element to Slayer.”
Lombardo, who was ousted from the band in 2013 after after publicizing financial issues he had with the group, is also unblinking about the decision that the band had to make to remove Hanneman from the fold when it became apparent that his guitar playing was suffering, not only due to his drinking but also surgeries he had gone through to combat the necrotizing fasciitis that he had contracted in 2011. “It was sad, but we had to make the decision and break the news to him,” he writes. “I know that it crushed him.”
Hanneman passed away on May 2, 2013, due to liver failure, brought on by his excessive alcohol use.
Perhaps the most surprising part of this tribute is the claim that, if Hanneman were alive today and playing at full capacity, he wouldn’t let Slayer come to an end. “He’d fight to keep the band going,” Lombardo says. “He’d have taken the band by the horns and driven it on. His love and his passion was music and being onstage. That passion was dampened by toxins, but it was still there.”
Slayer’s final tour will continue this winter with a run of European dates that wraps up at Helsinki’s Ice Hall on December 8th, and will pick back up again in 2019 with dates in South America and Japan. While no final date is set, the band has said that the tour will continue at least through the end of 2019.
Read Lombardo’s full Metal Hammer tribute here.