Jeff Hanneman, Slayer

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The world of heavy metal has lost one of its pioneering guitarists.

Jeff Hanneman, one of the cofounders of Slayer, died today, the band announced on its website. He was 49.

"Slayer is devastated to inform that their bandmate and brother, Jeff Hanneman, passed away at about 11 am this morning near his Southern California home," the statement reads. "Hanneman was in an area hospital when he suffered liver failure. He is survived by his wife Kathy, his sister Kathy and his brothers Michael and Larry, and will be sorely missed."

Hanneman and fellow guitarist Kerry King founded the band in 1981 in Huntington Park, Calif. Their early brand of thrash metal was an instantly recognizable, gory blur of double-kick-drum speed, Satanic imagery and sick dual guitar solos from Hanneman and King.

Hanneman's death follows a long ordeal brought on a by spider bite. In open letter posted on the Slayer site just yesterday, the band shared with fans some details of Hanneman's struggle. "It's been about a year since he got out of the hospital, and since then, he had to learn to walk again, he's had several painful skin grafts, he's been in rehab doing exercises to regain the strength in his arm," the statement read. The letter also noted that while Hanneman had been hoping to rejoin the band full-time, he had recently told them that "he needs to take more time to continue his rehab."

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