Question Of The Week: South Of Hanneman
Happy Friday everybody! Well this is a welcome moment, a chance to finally stick a fork in this week — cuz this shit needs to be doneskis, dunbar, over and ended. It’s been weird, distressing, and kinda shameful for metal people right? It’s like, fuck, these assholes whom we don’t even like have embarrassed us with their drug problems and Pain & Gain-esque capering. And worse, it’s happening while we’re trying to respectfully process the death of Jeff Hanneman, a key member of a key band in our world. Goddammit can everybody just be cool so we can properly mourn already? Okay? Startinggggg now in today’s MS QOTW!
Fearless. Controversial. Half-baked. We give it to you straight every Friday afternoon. Straight through the entire Slayer discography at top volume. Here’s this week’s question:
Inspired by this awesome dude who made metal way better by being cool, ignoring expectations, and expressing himself, we asked our staff the following:
What’s your Jeff Hanneman jam?
We miss him, man! Our answers (and yours) below!
After hearing “Raining Blood” for the 5,379th time, one notices that there are other great Slayer songs. Like “Live Undead.“ The two have similarities: each is penned by Jeff Hanneman, each has an album titled after them (though Live Undead is a live EP that preceded the song). The similarities end there: “Raining Blood” drops that apocalypse riff then pummels the shit out of you for a while; “Live Undead” takes its time, unfurls a few cagey Slayer riffs, then tumbles into a solo fit for your sleeveless hesher uncle. It seems to know that you’ll stick around for whatever the band throws your way. (They even hash things out for a few more bars after Tom Araya’s scream of screams.) By taking the scenic route to its final bashing, “Live Undead” builds to the same sort of peak that Reign in Blood took almost a whole album to reach. And not to diminish Reign — it’s still my favorite Slayer record in the same way that my favorite dude in The Heartbreakers is Tom Petty — but I know that Slayer could do more than show up and kick you in the face. Jeff Hanneman helped render their panoramic view of evil in the knowledge that it’s not enough to be the fastest band in the world. He didn’t tattoo his skull or co-star in a Jagermeister commercial, but he didn’t have to. “Live Undead,” like Slayer’s best and Hanneman himself, is completely free of bullshit. If you really love metal, you’ll miss that sumvabitch something fierce.
DAVID LEE ROTHMUND
Jam this equation: “I hate non-contact sports” + “Spill The Blood” + “I hate happy music” + “Hallowed Point” (below, especially at 0:39)” + irremovable sunglasses + “I hate when people sing about good things and love and optimism, because it bores me — it’s like, shut the fuck up” + “Postmortem” = the axiomatic legend Jeff Hanneman. I mean, there aren’t many interviews with him (check this one out), but that elusiveness never detracted from his sheer force as a biblical criterion of heavy music. His riffage is the canon, his band is the precedent, and his persistence was the proof.
I’m still reeling from Jeff’s death. Slayer has been my favorite band since age 14 when I got South of Heaven at the urging of a camp counselor; the loss of the man behind so many of their songs is devastating to me. Two Hanneman classics come to mind here. The first is “Behind The Crooked Cross,“ a song from the point of view of a typical Nazi grunt who has come to realize that he is fighting for the wrong side. It’s all by Hanneman, lyrics and music, and has a weird introspective intelligence to it that I find fascinating. It’s a beautiful example of storytelling through music. The second — easily my favorite Slayer song — is “War Ensemble.” To me, that song is about everyday life, which boils down to one long conflict between you and the ills of the world, where victory is to survive and death is defeat.
My feelings for Jeff Hanneman were similar to a carefully-guarded crush. Even in professional settings, where a journalist’s armor goes up and no affection is displayed, I kept kinda hoping that he liked me. Kerry King and Dave Lombardo would sportingly assume the workload in interviews, but I’d search Hanneman’s expression like Larry David for annoyance or approval. (He must’ve laughed to watch my eyes constantly flitting in his direction.) Cuz it was a personal thing: His awesomeness at slaying earned my respect and admiration, but our love was borne of his jovial vibe, fascination with history, and visual distinction in his posse (a smiley blond among dark scowlers). Just like me! (He also whammied our school’s punk-police via that Dead Kennedys logo sticker on his guitar — just like me!!) So forever in my heart jams “Spirit In Black,” a pristine Hanneman riff frenzy that lopes, stomps, then gathers itself before a face-stretching acceleration. Thanks Jeff u rule xoxoxo ADF