INDIO, CA - APRIL 23: Musician Jeff Hanneman of Slayer performs onstage during The Big 4 held at the Empire Polo Club on Apri
Kevin Winter

Tragic news for metal fans: Jeff Hanneman, guitarist and founding member of thrash metal legends Slayer, died earlier today at the age of 49.

The band's publicist issued the following statement:

"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.  He was 49.  Hanneman was in an area hospital when he suffered liver failure.  He is survived by his wife Kathy, his sister Kathy and his brothers Michael and Larry, and will be sorely missed."

Hanneman co-founded the band in 1981, with the group releasing their debut album, Show No Mercy, in 1983. But it was their third album, the 1986 Rick Rubin-produced Reign in Blood, that solidified them as metal monsters. The group was a member of what metal fans dubbed “The Big 4” alongside Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax. With founding member Kerry King, Hanneman co-wrote “Raining Blood,” arguably the group’s biggest track.