Rockbrat Remembers: Jeff Hanneman (1964 -2013)

Slayer formed in Huntington Park, California in 1981 and originally played cover versions of Maiden and Priest songs at clubs and parties in Southern California. Early shows relied on a Satanic image, which featured pentagrams, make-up, spikes, and inverted crosses. They played their first gig Halloween 1982 at a talent show in Southgate, California. The band was invited to open for Bitch at the Woodstock Club in Anaheim, California, performing eight songs — six being covers. While playing Iron Maiden’s “Phantom of the Opera” the band was spotted by Brian Slagel, a former music journalist who had, at the time, recently founded the label Metal Blade Records. Impressed with Slayer’s performance, Slagel met with the band backstage and asked them to record an original song, “Aggressive Perfector” for his upcoming Metal Massacre III compilation. The band agreed and the song created underground “buzz”, which led to Slagel offering the band a recording contract with Metal Blade and onto the road of metal success. Back in 1984 – metal had class divisions, and if you were a kid into Slayer – you were into the heaviest shit there was. I was a fan of thrash and speed metal, and dug bands like Anthrax, Metallica and the like – and also bought albums by Onslaught, Overkill and other bands of that genre I now forget – but venturing into Slayer territory was something I didn’t do. In 86 however, after reading countless great reviews of the ‘Reign In Blood’ album , (they even got coverage in mags like Circus) and seeing it score 10 out of 10 ratings – I was curious, and it meant that one day I bought the LP home. The ratings were just – it was skull crushing metal of the highest order, and just plain brutal. My god fearing buddy was aghast that I was now listening to Slayer, whilst he was still firmly entrenched in ass shaking Asylum era KISS, Ratt and Bon Jovi. Whilst I am (and never was) a fan of double time metal, and the lyrics about death and Satan may have been aimed at teens to shock their parents, musically, there was plenty of innovation and time changes on this album to separate Slayer from the pack. In the wake of Jeff Hanneman’s unfortunate passing (his death after a long illness was apparently the result of a spider bite) I listened to ‘Reign In Blood’ in its entirety again today. It’s pretty genre specific and doesn’t veer too far from the formulae, and the odes to Satan were probably one reason why Metallica became a household name in suburbs across the world whilst Slayer didn’t. (That, and Metallica also had way more melodically accessible tunes – other than the foot to the floor metal that Slayer plied). Interestingly, Columbia Records, refused to release Reign in Blood due to its graphic cover art and themes – so the album was distributed by Geffen Records, however, due to the controversy, Reign in Blood did not appear on Geffen Records’ release schedule. Although the album received virtually no radio airplay, it became the band’s first to enter the Billboard 200, debuting at number 94 and was the band’s first album certified gold in the United States. As I said though – back in 84/85 – Slayer were the baddest of the bad – and in memory of Jeff Hanneman, here’s the video of my favourite slayer tune – ‘Seasons Of The Abyss’.

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