Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman has died after suffering liver failure. He was 49.

The founding member of the band passed away in California on Thursday (02May13).

A statement from the group's publicist reads, "Slayer is devastated to inform that their bandmate and brother, Jeff Hanneman, passed away at about 11AM this morning near his Southern California home. He was 49.

"Hanneman was in an area hospital when he suffered liver failure... and will be sorely missed."

Rocker Slash was among the first to pay tribute. In a post on he wrote, "Tragic & shocking news about Jeff Hanneman. He is going to missed by so many. What a sad day for Metal. Rip man."

Hanneman fell seriously ill in 2011 after he was bitten by a spider - he almost lost his arm and was placed in a medically-induced coma following the diagnosis of necrotising fasciitis, a rare bacterial virus which attacks skin, fat and body tissue.

The star subsequently underwent several operations to remove the dead and dying tissue from his arm and pulled out of Slayer's 2012 tour to continue his treatment.

The guitarist co-founded the thrash metal band with Kerry King in 1981. Their breakthrough came five years later (86) with the release of the landmark album Reign in Blood. Many of the group's lyrics were inspired by Hanneman's interest in German war medals and Nazi Germany.

Hanneman, who had previously battled substance abuse issues, is survived by his wife Kathy. The pair married in 1997.