As I sat down last week and contemplated the loss of Jeff Hanneman, I realized being a beloved artist is a rare thing in music. It equates a following which transcends all typical stereotypes and lasts forever. Not many things in life can appeal to so many or garner such universal respect.
Slayer is a beloved band. They have entertained millions of fans while simultaneously influencing thousands of artists throughout the world. We know them all by name, a super group of pioneers who created a new genera of music in their wake. (Metallica may have sold a lot of records but they cannot be considered the foundation for modern death metal) Slayer has remained undeniably relevant since their inception and their relevancy will certainly exist forever.
During my long love affair with metal, I can’t think of any other band people follow so fervently. How many other groups get their name screamed out at metal shows and there’s always an echoed response? I remember a time when no one except Motorhead could open for Slayer without getting booed or in this case, “Slayered” off the stage. They have a manical following that is simply unquestioned.
Slayer fervor even changed the concert landscape, at least in the Midwest. General admission metal shows at mid-level venues like the Aragon Ballroom (1106 West Lawrence Chicago, IL ) prior to the release of South of Heaven had folding chairs you could stand on, that’s why I slept out in the alley outside the Aragon the night before the South of Heaven tour and waited in line all day, I was 3rd row, I’ve never done that for another band and I never will. They eliminated chairs from extreme shows shortly after this tour because crazy Slayer fans would smash up chairs in a thrash induced frenzy.
There are thousands of people out there with Slayer tattoos and you can almost always find the name Slayer; drawn, spray painted, or carved on something. If you’ve got money you can buy Slayer shirts, hats, jackets, pants, underwear, even Slayer shoes! There’s Slayer wine, Slayer beer and Slayer condoms. There are internet radio stations and online websites committed exclusively to Slayer.
It seems a radical band my parents and probably yours openly condemned has secretly become a big part of modern society! Yes, it’s true the name Slayer is known by all and loved by everyone from jocks to nerds, metal heads and geeks. We can add moms and dads to that list now that Slayer’s modern relevancy has spanned 30 plus years.
Let’s not forget this was all achieved without the assistance of typical media outlets like radio or MTV (when they actually played videos), this was all word of mouth. Marred in eternal controversy for their imagery and lyrics, Slayer is a group that glorifies serial killers and attacks religion. “Sex, Murder, Art” somehow won two Grammy Awards, the popularity is undeniable.
Slayer has now lost a key member. Jeff Hanneman is someone who is simply irreplaceable, credited for writing some of Slayer’s most recognizable tunes such as “War Ensemble”, “South of Heaven” and “Mandatory Suicide”. He was a pioneering guitarist and now an undisputed legend, whose reputation will only grow as more time passes. The coming days will tell what his loss will mean for Slayer but for now, let us share and rejoice in the timeless music Jeff left behind! \m/