Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman dies of liver failure after spider bite

Guitarist Jeff Hanneman, a founder of the U.S. heavy-metal band Slayer, has died at age 49 of liver failure after battling complications reportedly linked to a spider bite.

Thrash-metal group's co-founder was 49

Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman of Slayer, shown performing at the Empire Polo Club on April 23, 2011, in Indio, Calif., had battled medical issues for two years after being bitten by a spider. He died Thursday at age 49. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Guitarist Jeff Hanneman, a founder of the U.S. heavy-metal band Slayer, has died at age 49 of liver failure after battling complications reportedly linked to a spider bite.

"Slayer is devastated to inform that their bandmate and brother, Jeff Hanneman, passed away at about 11AM [Thursday] morning near his Southern California home," says a posting on the band's official website and Facebook page that gives cause of death as liver failure.

"Our Brother Jeff Hanneman, May He Rest in Peace."

Slayer spokeswoman Heidi Robinson-Fitzgerald said Hanneman died at a Los Angeles hospital with his wife by his side.

Hanneman had been slowly recovering from a spider bite in February 2011 that reportedly nearly cost him his arm.

Hanneman reportedly had contracted necrotizing fasciitis, commonly known as flesh-eating disease, after the bite.

Bitten in hot tub by spider

In a late 2011 interview with Hanneman posted on the website Metal Injection and in other media, he said he was in a hot tub with a couple of beers when he noticed the spider bite on his arm.

"Didn't even feel it. But an hour later, I knew that I was ill." The article says that by the time he arrived to a hospital emergency room, "I was an hour away from death." The medical staff told him that the bite had caused a bacterial infection in the deeper layers of his arm's skin and tissues.

In an online letter to fans about Hanneman's 2011 medical issues, the band said recently that his recovery had been "touch-and-go." There was talk he would have to have his arm amputated, he was in a medically induced coma for a time and had several operations to remove dead and dying tissue from his arm. He also went through a long period of rehab to regain the strength in his arm.

It's unclear if his medical problems following the spider bite were related to his liver failure.

The guitarist co-founded the thrash metal band Slayer with fellow guitarist Kerry King in Huntington Park, Calif., and the group is considered a pioneer of metal music. The band entered mainstream popularity with their 1986 album Reign in Blood. Hanneman wrote two of the group's most popular songs from the album, Raining Blood and Angel of Death. Tom Araya plays bass and sings in the band.

Hanneman had recently begun writing songs with the band in anticipation of recording a new album later this year.

Considered a 'trailblazer'

Slayer was also planning an international tour, beginning June 4 in Warsaw, that was slated to end in Santiago in October, according to its website. There was no immediate word on the status of the tour.

"The music industry has lost a true trailblazer, and our deepest sympathies go out to his family, his bandmates and fans around the world who mourn his untimely passing," said Neil Portnow, president and CEO of the Recording Academy, in a statement.

Robinson-Fitzgerald said it's believed the spider bite contributed to the failure of Hanneman's liver, but it is unclear whether an autopsy will be scheduled. No funeral arrangements have been made.

Reaction to Hanneman's death swept social media and comments on the group's Facebook page.

"Jeff Hanneman will always be a metal god," rocker Andrew W.K. posted on Twitter.

The tens of thousands of commenters on Facebook also expressed condolences.

"Truly sad news …. Thanx for the good times and the great music — it will live on forever and so will you," said one commenter.

With files from The Associated Press