SLAYER’s eleventh studio album, “Repentless”, is the band’s first without founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman, who died in 2013, more than two years after he contracted necrotizing fasciitis, also known as flesh-eating disease, from a spider bite in his backyard.
Asked if Jeff had been involved in any discussions about making a new studio album prior to his passing, SLAYER bassist/vocalist Tom Araya told Guitar World magazine: “No. Jeff kind of … [pauses to think] He was a hard person to talk to. When he disappeared, he wouldn’t answer calls or return texts. I would reach out to him at points, like, ‘Dude, are you ever gonna respond to anything just to let me know you’re alive?’ And he eventually would. At one point, we had a conversation dealing with the issue of Dave [Lombardo, drums] leaving, and Jeff said he had worked out an idea for a song. And he sent that out to everybody. So he was working on stuff, but I think the main thing was really his ability to perform. It was his strumming hand, which was an important thing in the music we play, and that got to him. We kept telling him to practice, like, ‘It’ll get better! You might have some difficulties, but it’ll get better.’ We tried to encourage him to keep playing music.”
Added SLAYER guitarist Kerry King: “From, like, seven months after [Jeff] got hurt, we had him come to rehearsal before every tour, trying to get him back in. He was trying, but he just wasn’t there. The hardest thing I ever had to say was, ‘You’re not ready.’ That dude’s been my sidekick for 25 years, and I have to tell him he can’t go on tour in the band he’s been in all his life. That sucked.”
Asked if Jeff was hurt by that, Kerry said: “I don’t know. That’s tough. My whole thing was Gary’s [Holt, current SLAYER guitarist] been out with us, for however long it was at that point, and he’s fucking spot-on money. I said to Jeff, ‘As much as people are gonna see you up there and not grasp, or forget, that maybe the playing is not perfect, I don’t want that on YouTube for you to live with for the rest of your life.’ You have to think about stupid shit like that now. But that was tough. We kept trying to get him in and it wasn’t coming around. If he hadn’t passed, I don’t know if he ever would have been good enough to just step back into being Jeff Hanneman again.”
Hanneman eventually died in May 2013 from alcohol-related cirrhosis of the liver. He is credited for writing many of SLAYER’s classic songs, including “Angel Of Death” and “South Of Heaven”.
“Repentless” was released on September 11 via Nuclear Blast. The follow-up to 2009’s critically acclaimed, Grammy-nominated “World Painted Blood” was produced by Terry Date, who has previously worked with PANTERA, DEFTONES and SOUNDGARDEN.