LOS ANGELES -- Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman, famous for his killer riff in "Raining Blood", has died of liver failure at the age of 49, the band announced on their Facebook page Thursday.
"Slayer is devastated to inform that their bandmate and brother, Jeff Hanneman, passed away at about 11AM this morning near his Southern California home," the Facebook post said. "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 has been battling a long illness thought to be caused by a spider bite he sustained while on tour in 2011.
Fans grew concerned after Hanneman stepped back from Slayer and Gary Holt of Exodus and Pat O'Brien from Cannibal Corpse performed with the band in his place.
Hanneman had contracted necrotizing fasciitis, a rare skin tissue disease, but it's unclear if the disease contributed to his death.
In 2012, Slayer posted an open letter about Hanneman's illness to their website.
"As you know, Jeff was bitten by a spider more than a year ago, but what you may not have known was that for a couple of days after he went to the ER, things were touch-and-go," the letter read.
"There was talk that he might have to have his arm amputated, and we didn’t know if he was going to pull through at all. He was in a medically-induced coma for a few days and had several operations to remove the dead and dying tissue from his arm. So, understand, he was in really, really bad shape."
A founding member of Slayer, Hanneman was considered by many to be one of metal's greatest guitarists.
His iconic riff in "Raining Blood" off the 1986 album "Reign in Blood" is the band's biggest selling song. Hanneman wrote the song with Slayer co-founder Kerry King.
On the 25th anniversary of the album's release, just as Hanneman's illness began to set in, he spoke about the song to Revolver magazine.
"At concerts, you know the drum buildup before we start playing that riff? It’s almost like an eerie calm going on in the audience. But once it starts, when we start playing that riff, they f***ing go crazy. I think its success is that it’s so simplistic. It just sticks in your head. It embeds itself in your brain, and you sing it in your head all day and the only cure is to play the song again. Kids go nuts for that song."
According to Billboard, Slayer has released ten studio albums and two live albums, as well as a pair of EPs. The metal band has sold 4.9 million albums in the SoundScan era (1991-present), with the classics "Reign in Blood" (1986), "South of Heaven" (1988) and "Seasons of the Abyss" (1990) accounting for over 2 million of that tally.