Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Death of an unknown legend

Death of an unknown legend

Again here is an old guest blog that I wrote in 2013 for a music page. I hope you enjoy.

Last week I awoke to the news that Jeff Hanneman, the legendary guitarist of Slayer passed away from liver failure due to complications from a spider bite.
This is the first time I was at a loss for words and sad at the passing of a music identity. Yes, for the fact that he actually died but more so for the fact that this would now start the decline of Slayer. Jeff Hanneman was the soul and glue of that band. He wrote, directed, empowered and constructed most of the songs that made the band what they are today. He was, without bias or prejudices one, if not the greatest musicians of our lifetime.

Can I back that up you ask? Yes. Yes I can. Look at the blogs and reviewers on the internet, the media coverage and the outpouring of grief from musicians and fans all over the world. There are celebrities also who you would not associate with heavy metal music also saddened by his passing such as Will Ferrell and Jimmy Fallon, this is worldwide grief people.

One thing that has confused me throughout the week is the coverage via social media and news outlets of Jeff’s death. Not so many years ago a member of a metal band dying was hidden away on page 9 of the newspaper if it even made it there at all ( see the deaths of Paul Grey from Slipknot, Ronnie James Dio from Dio and Black Sabbath and Mitch Tucker from Suicide Silence ) . Cast your minds back to the murder of Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell and the amount of media outlets that reported it. Apart from Music magazines and the odd opinion column, most of the information was spread by person to person. It was not reported as widely as Jeff’s death. Why? What has changed in the last 10 years? Metal is no longer as big as it was from the 80’s though to 2000 so why in 2013 is his death relevant to the masses? Could it be that Westboro Baptist Church is planning to protest at his funeral? Or could it be that Metal is making a comeback? Is it now an acceptable form of music?
I for one cannot answer that, but what I do know is the world has lost a huge talent. A talent that for all intents and purposes was relatively unknown in the music world as a whole. Jeff was never in the limelight as Kerry King always seemed to be the Slayer frontman, He rarely gave interviews and apart from stage and obligatory band shoots he was not photographed outside of this arena.

There are currently only 2 original remaining members in Slayer with Tom Araya and Kerry King left, following the release of Dave Lombardo and the sickness of Jeff Hanneman it is highly unlikely that we will see a follow up to the critically acclaimed “Come Back” album “Christ illusion”. This 2006 album squarely put Slayer back on the map after a few sub-par albums let them down and ‘World Painted Blood” kept the aggressiveness going.  They have always been part of the Big 4 with Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax making up the other 3 slots but Slayer has solely been responsible for leading this pack. They have never changed their stance, never changed the music nor the speed and loudness. They have been resilient the whole way through, not wavering at the outside pressures of dumbing down the music and cutting their hair while having a cry baby doco about how their life sucks or writing a 400 page book about how life is not fair or trying their hands at Rap ( yes I am talking about Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax ). They have been the strong thrash metal band and will forever be the leader.

Reign in Blood is one of the best albums. Not just of Slayers, not even in metal, but of all time. I stand by this. If you listen to the time signatures, the complex riffs and the heavy vocals it eclipses all that has come before it and maybe to this day, what came after it. Hanneman wrote 3 of the biggest songs of his career on that album ( he wrote 11 of the 12 songs ) – Angel of Death, Raining Blood and Alter of Sacrifice. They all still stand the test of time and even a musical songstress like Tori Amos has covered the song Raining Blood for the last 15 years of her career in her live shows. The music was a cross over, a change in direction and a kick-start to destroy the hair metal facade that was taking over. It was a game changer.

To give you an idea of how much the Reign in Blood album meant here are a few facts:

  • Legendary producer Rick Rubins first Heavy Metal produced album
  • 1 of only 2 Def Jam titles to be distributed through major labels by Geffen and Warner Brother Records
  • Through the relationship with Def Jam Records and Rick Rubin, Kerry King met The Beastie Boys. He later came up with and performed the guitar on the debut album Licence to Ill’s song “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”
  • The very first album to enter the Billboard top 100 charts with no radio airplay whatsoever
  • The songs on the album combined have been covered in total more than 116 times by recorded artists on their subsequent records.

So while this piece has been primarily written about Slayer, Jeff Hanneman’s untimely demise and the Sterling album “Reign in Blood”, the underlying guttural for this is about talent that is not revered until it’s gone. It’s about something that can be held in high esteem and even being a foreign idea that it can be loved. Jeff Hanneman and Slayer started something in 1983. They kept it alive and made it their own. Even if you are not a fan you can see the talent and the attitude they brought.

It is something that all musicians can inspire to be. \m/ \m/

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