Unless you have been living under a very large and soundproof rock since 1981, you have in one way or another most likely come in contact with the Los Angeles-based thrash-metal band Slayer. From their soul-splitting riffs to bloodcurdling screams, the band's feedback has resonated far and wide.
It is with a heavy heart that I write in remembrance of Jeff Hanneman's passing on May 2, 2013. The cause of death, according to the band's website, was liver failure. Hanneman was a co-founding member of the four-piece band. Alongside lead guitarist Kerry King, he'd handled guitar duties since the band's inception. Although he could solo for days, Hanneman was instrumental in the writing process as well, composing a majority of what could be considered the band's hits.
I'll never forget the first time I saw Erik Ellington's part in the Zero Skateboards video "Misled Youth." As soon as Ellington's name fades out, one of the most amazing guitar riffs of all time kicks in. The music pulled you in as Ellington sat out of focus with a fire flickering in the foreground. He started off with the line at Beverly Hills High, and then the song kicked in. That song was "South of Heaven" from the 1988 Slayer album by the same name.
And immediately, I was hooked. Being a seventh grader with parents who didn't allow me to purchase albums with parental-advisory stickers on them, it took some time to acquire their music. But when I finally did, Slayer changed my life. In fact, many athletes in the professional skateboarding realm mirror that sentiment.
Pro skater Danny Way, who is friends with and has worked with the band over the years, remembers Hanneman fondly: "Jeff was a part of something that represented a huge part of many people's lives and skateboarding culture growing up. Slayer was more than just a band; it was a way of life. Slayer was a music genre of its own. I'm glad I got to be a part of this era and glad I was able to hang with Jeff over the years. He was an awesome human being and I'm very bummed to say the least that this has happened."
Slayer's influence in action-sports videos reached beyond skateboarding as well. In 1999, Dave Parrick of Trash Films soundtracked the opening section (featuring Dave Young) of the BMX video "Nowhere Fast" to the Slayer song "Raining Blood." XGames.com BMX editor Brian Tunney recalls the song's influence on the video and BMX scene: "It was not the first time Slayer was featured in a BMX video, but it cemented their legacy as a band that took the finer elements of hardcore, thrash and brilliant musicianship and offered BMX riding a new musical paradigm that preached aggression and the possibilities of 'what if.' In more tangible terms, anyone that rode to Slayer [in a contest or video] went, or at least attempted to go, that much higher and crazier."
Slayer's music is fast, angry and, at times, disturbing. It's this formula that has allowed them to bind so seamlessly to a number of action-sports athletes, including Derek Garland, a professional FMX rider for the Metal Mulisha brand. Garland spent a summer working alongside Slayer on the Mayhem Festival, a touring festival for metal bands that featured FMX demos. And he fed off their energy as he prepped for his demos. "It felt surreal. Sometimes they would come watch our Metal Mulisha shows and, later on, we would watch them perform. It was an honor to be on the same tour as them and it will always be something I'll look back on and be proud of," says Garland.
There is no doubt that the reach of Slayer extends beyond action sports, but their aggression continues to thrive within it. Our hearts are with Jeff Hanneman's family and friends. And although he is no longer with us, his legacy shall never cease to reign in blood.