Despite reports that he may have died following the fatal effects of a spider bite, Slayer announced on Thursday that original guitarist Jeff Hanneman succumbed to the effects of fatal alcohol-related liver disease.
The band said Hanneman, who died last week at the age of 49, suffered from alcohol-related cirrhosis, which causes irreversible scarring of the liver.
"We've just learned that the official cause of Jeff's death was alcohol related cirrhosis," Slayer wrote in a statement. "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. Contrary to some reports, Jeff was not on a transplant list at the time of his passing, or at any time prior to that. In fact, by all accounts, it appeared that he had been improving -- he was excited and looking forward to working on a new record."
Hanneman and Kerry King founded the group in 1981 after King was trying out for another band. The two bonded over their shared love for Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, going on to release their first album Show No Mercy in 1983. They went on to release 11 more albums over the next 26 years; their last release was 2009's World Painted Blood. He contributed both lyrics and music to every one of those albums, and wrote iconic songs like "Raining Blood," "War Ensemble," "South of Heaven" and "Angel of Death," which are staples in Slayer's live shows.
The band is working out the details of a celebration of Hanneman's life for later this month, which will be open to the public. Information on that event will be posted on the band's official website.
King posted some personal memories of Hanneman, including remembrances of their early years on the road. "In the early days when we were out on the road, he and I were the night owls, we would stay up all night on the bus, just hanging out, talking, watching movies," he wrote. "World War II movies, horror movies, we watched 'Full Metal Jacket' so many times, we could practically recite all of the dialogue."
Slayer bassist/vocalist Tom Araya added, "When we first formed Slayer, we used to rehearse all the time, religiously, 24/7. Jeff and I spent a lot of time hanging out together, he lived in my father's garage which was also our rehearsal space. When he got his own apartment, he had an 8-track and I would go there to record songs I'd written, not Slayer songs, other stuff I'd written. At a certain point, you still have the band but you start your own lives outside of the band, so that 24/7 falls to the side, you don't spend as much time together as you once did. I miss those early days ... Jeff was a lifeline of Slayer, 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."