Donny Hillier, the lead vocalist of San Francisco thrash act Trauma (and center in the above photo), died Tuesday (Sept. 28), the band has disclosed. Late Metallica bassist Cliff Burton cut his teeth in Trauma in the early ’80s.
The group shared a short statement this week announcing the death. However, Trauma didn’t reveal a cause of death beyond noting that Hillier suffered a brief ailment in preceding days. Surviving members of the band include guitarists Steve Robello and Joe Fraulob, bassist Greg Christian and drummer Kris Gustofson.
“It is with immeasurable sadness that Trauma shares the news that our brother Donny Hillier passed away yesterday, September 28, 2020, from a short illness,” the group revealed. “We are all grief-stricken and send our deepest condolences to Donny’s family and will respect their wishes for privacy at this time. Donny was the voice of Trauma since the beginning in 1981 and will be a hard act to follow.”
Trauma’s early-’80s iteration performed for just a few short years before disbanding in 1985. But in 2013, the group reformed around Hillier, who was the last remaining original member. A year later, the band signed with Pure Steel Records for their 2015 comeback album, Rapture and Rath.
More recently, Trauma released As the World Dies (2018, Rivet Records), their final full-length release with Hillier as lead singer. The band’s debut LP, Scratch and Scream, emerged in 1985 on Shrapnel Records.
Still, perhaps the most persistent tale in metal lore regarding Trauma is that of Cliff Burton’s defection to join Metallica in late 1982. As the story goes, Metallica’s James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich heard Burton’s playing backstage at a Los Angeles gig between the two bands that year. Impressed, they sought him out for their own group. But Burton was unwilling to move to LA and made Metallica relocate to Northern California to join him.
As of this posting, Hillier’s exact age at the time of his death was unclear.
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