Guitarist Jeff Hanneman, founding member of heavy metal’s Slayer, dies

Story highlights

NEW: Musicians describe Hanneman as a "true master," "metal god" and "legend"

Hanneman was among those who founded the heavy metal band Slayer in 1981

He co-wrote two songs on Slayer's landmark 1986 album, "Reign in Blood"

He was at a California hospital when he suffered liver failure, his band says

CNN  — 

The death of Slayer founder and Grammy-winning heavy metal guitarist Jeff Hanneman launched speculation Friday that focused on a spider bite.

He was 49.

“Slayer is devastated to inform that their bandmate and brother, Jeff Hanneman, passed away at about 11 a.m. this morning near his Southern California home. Hanneman was in an area hospital when he suffered liver failure,” the band said in a statement posted on its website and Facebook page.

Hanneman leaves behind his wife, Kathy, a sister and two brothers.

“He … will be sorely missed,” the band said.

The guitarist was with Slayer from its founding in 1981. Its breakthrough came five years later with the release of “Reign in Blood,” an album that included two songs – “Angel of Death” and “Raining Blood” – co-written by Hanneman.

That was one of 10 studio albums that the band put out over three decades together, during which they performed thousands of shows.

On Slayer’s official website, Hanneman said that the last one – “World Painted Blood” – came together quickly because the band’s members worked seamlessly.

“The interaction between all of us on this record was really something special,” he said. “… The chemistry was just good.”

In 2006 and 2007, Slayer won Grammy awards for best metal performance.

The metal world – in tweets from, among many others, the bands Rancid, Hatebreed, In Flames and Testament – reacted to Hanneman’s death with sadness and appreciation, referring to him as a “true heavy metal legend” and a “brother in thrash.”

“Jeff Hanneman will always be a metal god,” wrote rocker Andrew WK. “A true master, he gave energy and excitement to millions, and will continue to. #PartyForSlayer.”

The news also spurred thousands of diehard fans to comment about Hanneman on Slayer’s Facebook page.

Wrote one: “One of the best shredders ever to walk Earth. RIP, good sir.”

CNN’s Denise Quan, Amanda Watts and Chelsea Carter contributed to this report.