“Jeff Hanneman Arrives in Metal Heaven” by Contributing Writer Chris Krovatin
Chris Krovatin is the author of three young adult novels, Heavy Metal & You, Venomous, and Gravediggers: Mountain of Bones. He is currently working on multiple new writing projects, as well as new material with his local New York metal band Flaming Tusk. He is a contributing writer for Revolver and generally comes off as a good-natured pain in everyone’s collective ass. This column represents his opinions–and probably only his opinions.
Some time ago, I wrote a piece about my vision of Metal Heaven. With the passing of Jeff Hanneman–guitarist of my favorite band of all time, Slayer–I couldn’t help but wonder what Metal Heaven was like when he showed up. The following is how I picture it:
The first announcement blares through ashen sky on the deep-toned horns of the Watchers, fleet-hoofed satyrs that spend their entire lives on mountain outposts, obsidian eyes perpetually trained towards earth to observe the passing of legends. Soon after their initial alarm, smoke pours from the chimneys of the Invictus Citadel at the city’s center. For each fallen warrior, the smoke takes a different form—for Darrel, the air filled with dank clouds of the finest Texan kush; for Chuck, the pipes became charnel jets, spewing a vapor somehow composed of still-writhing meat. Today, on May 2, in the Year Of Our Self 2013, the Invictus erupts in a torrent of oppressively pitch-black smoke that pools overhead. Scarlet lightning lacerates the night sky, and slowly, a deluge of human blood gushes from the gargantuan cloud, painting the world crimson. Each peal of thunder comes in three beats—DUN DUN DUN—and seems to whisper a dark promise: Look alive, look dead. Polish your swords, load your guns. He is coming. He is coming.
Mourning is necessary, if only for his loss to the world. Mixed crowds of dead souls, nuclear wraiths, and towering crag-faced warbeasts take to the streets, each bearing a black candle and a heavy heart. In every catacomb and crypt, the dead, from festering gasbag to cobweb-clad skeleton, crawl from grottoes and caskets and bow their heads in a display of gratitude. In the great mead halls and barracks, infernal warriors lay down their arms, pull off their gas masks, and know that the soul who spun their combat anthems has been stripped from the land of the living. They offer up a prayer, if there is such a thing in this place, to Tom, Kerry, Dave, Kathy, and all others who will no longer know him. Then, the celebration erupts in a deafening blast of joyous cacophony, a symphony of clashed shields, beaten chests, bellowed cries, and clinked beer bottles. For a brief moment, all of the land joins in their triumphant joy at his coming. Heineken sponsors the next 20 minutes.
Then, preparation, frantic but gratefully performed. Thirty-fingered artisans, their many facial sores splitting and oozing pus as they grin with glee, paint epic vistas of demonic assassins flooding the earth, spilling pure Hell and radioactive grandeur across humanity’s corrupt and repellent face. Brutish stonemasons, their tattooed biceps bulging with exertion, begin crafting a series of statues to line that evening’s parade—spirits in black, revealed through the unwinding coils of venomous serpents; helmet-clad ghosts of once-forgotten soldiers rising to new life; and a rotten depiction of the Angel of Death himself, flying free. From the mountains, snaggle-toothed trolls arrive, hauling jagged hunks of iron ore to the smelting plant in the Ironbound where hordes of armor-clad mutants begin forging it into steel for the Citadel’s commemorative crest. Giant bats and hideous gargoyles are sent flapping in the air with care packages of cold beer and Mexican food, soaring upwards to Limbo, where he is no doubt bogged down finishing the post-mortem paperwork and autographing LPs.
As the arrival draws near, the entire world is abuzz with preparation. Garlands of skulls and M16 rounds are strung between every rafter. Great joints of behemoth meat are rubbed with gravel and roasted over smoldering souls of hypocrites and backstabbers. Every spider, no matter how inconsequential and harmless their bite, is captured, killed, or run out of town, even Araxnor the Hideous, who scuttles into the woods with her brood clinging to her thorax, reluctantly fleeing for propriety’s sake. Every screen that floats, hangs, or squats throughout the city center is alive with images of battlefield carnage or footage from Live Intrusion and War at the Warfield. The streets outside the Invictus writhe with every manner of headbanger and unholy post-human creature, all dressed in full shinguards and Raiders’ gear and hoisting inverted crucifixes over their heads. The ironworkers bring forth their masterpiece, a giant steel eagle with two Jackson guitars crossed over its center; it takes two hella-copters and a 30-foot granite golem to affix it to the front of the Citadel, where its eyes burst into obsidian flames.
The decorations in place, the crowds roiling like a lake of fire, all is prepared for his coming. Overhead, the black cloud of malice begins to churn, creating a vortex at its center and spitting out even more unholy lightning that sends the occasional careless vampire or fallen angel crash-landing amid the crowds below. The ever-widening gyre in the sky begins rumbling with a noise that is equal parts thunder and amplifier feedback, and suddenly a single bolt of light erupts from its core, momentarily blinding the gibbering masses as it enters the Invictus Citadel, making every black stained-glass window flicker eerily before it dissipates. Then, as the abyssal gate in the clouds closes, the doors to the citadel swing open with a earth-shaking rumble, and a shadow, tall and jagged at its edges, emanates from the door, stretching down the central promenade like a black carpet upon which only the unholy may tread.
The crowd’s roar grows deafening as a silhouette, haloed in a whipping mane of blonde hair, makes its way from the darkness and into the open, hailed and greeted on all sides as brother and friend.