Ralph Santolla, the prolific metal guitarist best known for playing in Deicide, Iced Earth, Obituary, Death, and others fell into a coma after suffering a heart attack on May 30th, according to a Facebook post written by his mother, Sue Santolla-Rocha, and the musician is scheduled to be taken off life support on Wednesday, June 6th, said his son Dorian Angelo Santolla in a separate post.
UPDATE: Santolla-Rocha has confirmed her son's death on Facebook. "My heart is broken, but I know he loved me unconditionally and will always be with me," she writes. "It is the same with all of us, he will be with you everyone, everyday and his love will surround us now and forever."
Santolla's family members intend to uphold the musician's legacy by donating his organs to patients in need. "Those recipients don't know what they are getting until they suddenly become sarcastic, funny, get tattoos, start playing guitar," Santolla-Rocha joked in an accompanying Facebook post.
Born in 1969, Santolla was a member of several legendary bands on-and-off throughout the Nineties and Aughts: most notably the death-metal stalwarts Deicide, with whom he recorded and toured from 2005-2011, as well as Millennium, Obituary, and Sebastian Bach. His touring resume proved equally impressive: over the course of his twenty-year-plus career, the Italian-American axeman churned out riffs for Death, Iced Earth, Melechesh, and Vital Remains.
In addition to the aforementioned bands, Santolla involved himself with numerous side projects, including Memorial, Serpent Seduced Eye, Redscream; he also formed a supergroup, Devil's Highway, with members of Crowbar, Dimmu Borgir, Testament, and more. Santolla-Rocha says the band's debut album was still in-progress at the time of her son's death, noting in today's Facebook post that she hopes to release that material posthumously.
On social media, friends and bandmates remembered the singer. "Rest In Peace Ralph Santolla," said Sebastian Bach on Twitter. "Thanks for the music and the fun times. My condolences to the Santolla family."
"RIP Ralph Santolla, my Metal Brother in Iced Earth," wrote Richard Christy. "Had so many great times on tour with Ralph, can't believe he's gone. Such a funny, talented, & genuinely friendly guy, please crank up his many bands in his memory tonight!"
Arch Enemy's Michael Amott posted the following tribute on Instagram: "American guitarist Ralph Santolla has passed away. I have a lot of fond memories of Ralph, I actually shared a tour bus with Ralph on his first ever European tour when he was playing for Death in 1993 (I was playing in Carcass). We became fast friends as we were both fans of guitarists Michael Schenker and Uli Jon Roth. We almost started a band together at one point. It never materialised, but we sure had a great time talking about it! Ralph faced a lot of challenges over the years in his personal life but always kept on playing great guitar and wrote some remarkable music. Even though he made a name for himself in the Death Metal world, playing for bands like Death, Obituary and Deicide, I believe his heart was always more into the melodic side of things. One of my favourite songs he composed and played on is 'No More Miracles' off the 'Hourglass' album with his Millennium band. I'll be listening to that one a few times tonight while remembering the good times. Cheers Ralph! Rest In Peace."