Legendary Slayer guitarist and founding member Jeff Hanneman passed away from liver failure today (May 2). He was only 49 years old.

Hanneman had been forced to cancel several recent live dates with the band after contracting necrotizing fasciitis, possibly from a spider bite -- but that condition has not been cited as a cause of death.

The band issued a press release earlier, saying:

Slayer is devastated to inform that their bandmate and brother, Jeff Hanneman, passed away at about 11AM this morning near his Southern California home. 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 wrote countless hits for the band, including 'War Ensemble,' 'Seasons in the Abyss' and 'Raining Blood.'