When asked in May 2011 if Slayer was going to make a follow-up to World Painted Blood, then-Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo replied that, although nothing had been written yet, there were "definitely plans." In early 2011, guitarist Jeff Hanneman contracted necrotizing fasciitis. Reports linked this illness with a spider bite he claimed to have received while in a friend's hot tub. When asked about a new record, bassist Tom Araya stated that any work would have to wait until Hanneman had recovered.
On February 20, 2013, it was announced that Lombardo would not take part in Slayer's Australia tour due to contractual disputes, and his place would be taken by former drummer Jon Dette. Being interviewed in late February by Soundwave TV, guitarist Kerry King elaborated more on the personnel status for the album. He expressed doubt as to who might produce the album, saying that Metallica had producer Greg Fidelman "monopolized." Additionally, the continued absence of Hanneman further contributed to the uncertainty. Lombardo's permanent replacement was later announced to be Paul Bostaph, who was previously the band's drummer from 1992 to 2001, appearing on several albums.
On May 2, 2013, Jeff Hanneman died of liver failure in a Los Angeles hospital. A week later, the official cause of death was announced as alcohol-related cirrhosis. Hanneman and his family had apparently been unaware of the extent of condition until shortly before his death. King has announced his desire for the band to continue, but Araya was more uncertain, stating, "After 30 years, it would literally be like starting over," and expressing doubts that Slayer's fanbase would approve of such a change. In March 2015, Araya revealed that the band had recorded one song prior to Hanneman's passing, and that the song would appear on the album. The result was the song "Piano Wire". Araya explained that Hanneman would be a part on the album when King later dismissed the claim saying, "Jeff Hanneman isn't physically playing on this record. Somebody reported some bullshit. People say shit when they don't know what's actually going on. Even though Jeff's song, "Piano Wire", was recorded during the last album cycle, I played all the guitar. I've been doing that for years. Since he has no lead on that song, he's not on it."