Late Slayer Guitarist Jeff Hanneman’s Guitars Purchased by Broken Hope's Jeremy Wagner

Scores of extreme metal bands have been influenced by Slayer over the years, but Jeremy Wagner, guitarist for death metal legends Broken Hope, has taken his love and reverence for the band—and, in particular, guitarist Jeff Hanneman—to new heights.

The guitarist and songwriter is currently composing music for a new Broken Hope record, their second since reuniting a few years back, and he’s doing it using only guitars that were previously owned and played by Hanneman himself.

How did these instruments come into Wagner’s possession? Following Hanneman’s death in 2013 from liver failure, his widow, Kathryn, put several of his guitars up for auction, with proceeds benefitting one of Hanneman’s favorite charities, the Wounded Warriors Project. After hearing of the auction, Wagner got in touch with Kathryn and the two hit it off. “She told me, ‘Jeff would have wanted these guitars to be used, not just sit in a vault,’ ” he says.

Kathryn wound up selling four guitars directly to Wagner, with the proceeds still going to charity ($12,000 was the original asking price for each guitar in the auction; Wagner paid an undisclosed sum). The oldest and most iconic of these is Hanneman’s “punk rock” Jackson, a 1988 Soloist model that he covered with stickers from punk bands. “Jeff used it on the South of Heaven album and tour, on Season in the Abyss, and on the Clash of the Titans tour,” Wagner says. “It’s in the ‘War Ensemble’ video, it’s on the cover of Decade of Aggression…when I was a teenager, that was such a legendary guitar.”

Two of the instruments Wagner acquired are more recent models: a 1998 ESP Custom Shop model Hanneman used during the recording of Diabolus in Musica and in the video for the God Hates Us All track “Bloodline,” and a “Raiders” logo ESP that, Wagner says, “was probably one of the last custom guitars he got from them.”

But the guitar that Wagner has been using the most for composing the new Broken Hope songs is one known as “Killer.” “It’s another ESP custom model, also done up with Jeff’s personally applied stickers,” Wagner says. “It was built in 2005 and played in the studio for Christ Illusion. And I just love this thing. I’ve been riffing out on it, and the riffs are just flowing out of me.”

Wagner, who also owns one of Hanneman’s classic amps, a 1986 Marshall JCM800 2203 with a custom graphic, confirms that the new Broken Hope record will feature him playing “100 percent Hanneman guitars,” he says. “And not to sound corny, but I feel a real responsibility to Jeff and to Kathryn to use these guitars in a way that honors him. You know that phrase WWJD—What Would Jesus Do? I think about that. Only for me it’s, What Would Jeff Do?”

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.