Testament Guitarist Alex Skolnick Pays Tribute to ‘Immense’ Slayer Shredder Jeff Hanneman
Metal musicians of all sub genres are continuing to pay their respects to late Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman. Few guitarists have earned their spot with Hanneman as members of thrash’s most elite pedigree, but Testament shredder Alex Skolnick is undeniably at the side of Hanneman in terms of skill and respect. As one of thrash’s most admired guitarists, Skolnick has written an in-depth memorial of Hanneman from the viewpoint of a true six-string master.
“Jeff had a subtle sense of humor that was all his own, and though he was a bit more reserved than the rest of the Slayer camp, he viewed life as a party to be enjoyed to its fullest,” Skolnick writes at Premier Guitar. “Much of what Jeff’s loved ones and fans appreciated about him was his steadfast and genuine style—the fact that he didn’t stray from his own vision. In Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman’s ‘Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal,’ Jeff is quoted, ‘I tried to emulate what [well-known shredders] did and really grow as a guitarist. Then I said, “I don’t think I’m that talented, but more important, I don’t care.”‘ But as legions of dedicated Slayer fans the world over would attest, Jeff’s portrayal of himself as marginally talented is completely inaccurate. A more apt description could be summed up in one word, “immense.”
“What separated Jeff from the rest of the metal pack was his rhythm technique, his songwriting, and that for which he will be most remembered—his riffs,” Skolnick adds. “But his frenzied, turbulent solos were also an important part of the package. They weren’t about showing off. They served a greater artistic purpose—to sonically channel the qualities of Slayer’s lyrical content. They were sometimes abrasive, sometimes jarring, and at times disturbing. They had less in common with typical rock-guitar virtuosos than they did with the sonic collages of avant-garde improvisers such as Derek Bailey and John Zorn, the latter of whom is a self-professed Slayer fan who has cited the band as an inspiration.”
Skolnick continues, “If you’ve ever seen Slayer live, you’ve felt exactly what propelled the band’s popularity past those of Venom and other classic-metal influences. In fact, prior to Hanneman and his bandmates’ groundbreaking albums — including 1986’s bar-setting ‘Reign in Blood’ — many believed metal could never reach such levels of popularity and fan dedication. Before Slayer, metal had never had such razor-sharp articulation, tightness, and balance between sound and stops. This all-out sonic assault was about the shock, the screams, the drums, and—again, most importantly—the riffs. And it was Hanneman who brought so many of the band’s timeless riffs.”
Head over to Premier Guitar to read Alex Skolnick’s masterful memorial of Jeff Hanneman in its entirety.