On 10th November 1994 my friends and I crossed the border from Bristol into deepest, darkest Wales as we headed out to only our fourth or fifth ever gig.
Bristol at the time had no large music venues, so Newport Centre tended to be the nearest location for any of the bigger bands of the time. After booking our gig tickets and coach travel at Our Price in The Galleries shopping centre, we finished school that Thursday and got our parents to drop us into town.
The short trip to Wales was always exciting, like going on a Heavy Metal Holiday. Having seen Pantera at the same venue two months previously, we knew we’d be in for a treat. The gig we were heading to was Slayer on their Divine Intervention tour and the band were to be supported by some young up and comers called Machine Head, so the bill promised to be as heavy as hell.
As we arrived, we used various IDs and our deepest 15 year old voices to buy a pint (Foster’s) in the bar that bizarrely overlooked the swimming pool where OAPs would be engrossed in Thursday night aquarobics.
I’ve probably never seen as much leather, denim and hair as I did that night, and it seemed that half of the UK’s metal fans were in attendance.
The show we witnessed that night was nothing short of incredible. Despite Divine Intervention being much-maligned by the press and the hardcore fans, the band had seen fit to adapt their sound, a wise strategy, proven by a stunning rendition of Davidian that had threatened to blow the headliners off the stage before they even got there.
Of course, Slayer went on to play a shedload of classics too and it was enthralling to see such a technically accomplished band play with such speed and power. The pit was something else entirely and I don’t think it’s been matched in my 19 years of gig-going since.
Of course the man who was mostly responsible for those classics was Jeff Hanneman, an astounding guitarist and songwriter who defined a genre with his songs. His and Kerry King’s partnership will probably never be bettered and when I heard the news about Jeff’s passing I was utterly distraught.
Slayer have remained hugely relevant to this day as proven by the outpouring of condolences from musicians in all kinds of bands and as one of the ‘Big Four’, Slayer redefined modern heavy music. The destructive power of their sound never waned and fans new and old could always be guaranteed a clutch of mind-blowing songs with every new release.
So, as I sit here thinking back, I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without Jeff Hanneman. We all used to rib each other at school for the lighter music we were into, but one thing that united me and some of my best friends still to this day was a love and appreciation for all things heavy. Whether we’ve joined bands ourselves, jetted off to the other side of the world or started our own businesses, we’re all still head banging away to some happy, happy times.
Rest in peace Jeff, you gave so much to so many that you may never have realised the full impact of your work.