Former DEATH, ICED EARTH, DEICIDE and OBITUARY guitarist Ralph Santolla died Wednesday night (June 6) at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, Florida.
The musician fell into a coma after suffering a heart attack on May 30 and was taken off life support last night around 11:00 p.m. He was 51 years old.
Santolla's friend, fellow guitarist Bill Hudson, confirmed Ralph's passing in a Facebook post, writing: "NOW It is official: I (and many other people) just lost my best friend, as well as one of the most underrated guitarists in all history.
"He passed away peacefully with about 10 of his closest friends and family around him (myself included).
"Please keep his mother Sue Santolla-Rocha, his son Dorian Angelo Santolla and all the rest of us in your thoughts...
"Rest in peace, my brother, Ralph Santolla... You will be missed by A LOT of people...
"I love you, bro."
Ralph's mother wrote about her son: "My heart is broken, but I know he loved me unconditionally and will always be with me. 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 said that they would uphold his 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 a Facebook post.
Although Santolla never recorded with DEATH, he toured with the legendary death metal act in 1993 and appeared in the group's "The Philosopher" video.
Santolla played on and off with DEICIDE between 2005 and 2011 and appeared on three of the band's albums: "The Stench Of Redemption" (2006), "Till Death Do Us Part" (2008) and "To Hell With God" (2011).
Ralph joined OBITUARY in 2007 as the replacement for Allen West. He recorded with the band on the "Xecutioner's Return" (2007) and "Darkest Day" (2009) albums as well as the "Left To Die" EP (2008).
Santolla also played with MILLENIUM, ICED EARTH and Sebastian Bach. In addition, he was involved with DEVIL'S HIGHWAY, a project he formed several years ago with singer Kyle Thomas (TROUBLE, EXHORDER), bassist Steve DiGiorgio (TESTAMENT, SADUS), guitarist Matt Brunson (CROWBAR, KINGDOM OF SORROW) and drummer Tony Laureano (DIMMU BORGIR, NILE).
Bach wrote in a Facebook post: "Rest in peace, Ralph Santolla. Thanks for the music and the fun times. My condolences to the Santolla family."
Norwegian singer Jørn Lande, who played with Santolla in MILLENIUM, wrote: "My dear friend and former bandmate Ralph Santolla has passed away, and I can't believe he is gone. The kindest, most caring and compassionate man you could ever know. He had the most hilarious sarcastic humor, and played guitar like no one else!
"There's a hole in the heart of the world without you, Ralph, and I am sorry I wasn't there when you left.
"All my love to Sue Santolla-Rocha, Dorian Angelo Santolla and the rest of the family.
"So long, my friend!"
NOW It is official: I (and many other people) just lost my best friend, as well as one of the most underrated guitarists...Posted by Bill Hudson II on Wednesday, June 6, 2018
Rest In Peace Ralph SantollaPosted by Sebastian Bach on Wednesday, June 6, 2018
Thanks for the music and the fun times
My condolences to the Santolla family.