People with extreme personalities make extreme music, but people with extreme personalities don’t always get along. Here are some of the biggest feuds in heavy metal history
Axl Rose vs. Vince Neil
This one is really Izzy Stradlin’s fault. According to Vince Neil, Stradlin assaulted the Mötley Crüe singer’s wife while he was out of town. This led to an understandably angry Vince Neil punching the Guns N’ Roses rhythm guitarist backstage at the MTV Video Music Awards. Axl Rose then allegedly called journalist Mick Wall, ranting about how he was going to beat up Vince Neil for the Izzy incident. When Neil saw Axl’s quotes in the press, all hell broke loose. Neil went on MTV to challenge the Guns N’ Roses singer to a fight on live television, which Axl declined. Rose allegedly summoned Neil to a Tower Records parking lot and then the Venice boardwalk, but never showed up. The whole thing was stupid and the fight never happened
Bill Ward vs. Black Sabbath
Heavy metal would be a very different beast without the contributions of Bill Ward. However important he is, the legendary drummer has always seemed to get the shit end of the stick by Black Sabbath. Although he was maliciously brutalized by Tony Iommi and company during the band’s salad days until his first departure after Heaven and Hell, Ward would come back countless times over the years for more punishment. A contract dispute with the reunited original Black Sabbath lineup seems to be the final line in the sand, although Ward remains open to resolving the financial issues and recording a final album.
Sharon Osbourne vs. Bruce Dickinson
There was no love lost between Bruce Dickinson and the Osbournes during the Ozzfest run of 2005. According to Sharon Osbourne, the Iron Maiden frontman disrespected the headliner and the audience constantly throughout the tour. Revenge is a dish best served cold, so Osbourne bided her time until Iron Maiden’s final appearance in San Bernardino, California. Undergoing chemo at the time, Sharon planted her nurses in the audience to pelt Dickinson with eggs while his unfortunate band had the power repeatedly cut on them and a roadie ran out with a flag to chant “OZZY!” over the PA system. After the disastrous performance, Sharon Osbourne took the stage to call Bruce Dickinson a “prick” for his continual rude behavior. Iron Maiden issued a statement expressing their dismay following the event.
Trent Reznor vs. Marilyn Manson
Although the Nine Inch Nails mastermind was largely responsible for unleashing Marilyn Manson on the world, Trent Reznor and his protege have been steeped in bad blood for quite some time. Having produced and released Manson’s first two breakthrough albums, tensions grew when the shock rocker released his Long Hard Road Out Of Hell autobiography, which included numerous salacious anecdotes about Reznor (which he categorically denies). Although the two appeared to bury the hatchet when Manson joined Nine Inch Nails on stage at Madison Square Garden in 2000 and also appeared in the band’s “Starfuckers Inc.” video, tensions resurfaced as allegations of sexual misconduct grew around Manson.
Sammy Hagar vs. David Lee Roth
Fans might argue passionately about the quality of David Lee Roth era Van Halen versus the band’s records with Sammy Hagar, but they’ve got nothing on the way the singers bicker about it themselves. Acrimony and personal jabs were inevitable given their outspoken personalities, but it seemed like water under the bridge when the two frontmen announced a co-headline tour in 2002. Noble intention aside, sharing a stage just seemed to aggravate hostilities in the end. At this point, it seems like Diamond Dave and the Red Rocker will whine about each other until the end of time.
The Osbournes vs. Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake
The rhythm section from Blizzard Of Ozz and Diary Of A Madman were embroiled in tumultuous litigation against the Osbourne camp for quite some time over the issues of performance royalties and improper album credits. Although the pair helped write and arrange most of the material on those first two albums (particularly Daisley, who also penned a significant number of the lyrics), neither was credited for their work on Diary after they were fired. They successfully sued former manager Don Arden for compensation and acknowledgement of their contributions, but lost a similar case against Ozzy and Sharon in the 1990s. Sharon Osbourne retaliated by having the bass and drum parts on Blizzard and Diary re-recorded (without Ozzy’s knowledge) by Robert Trujillo and Mike Bordin for their 2002 reissues. Although Daisley and Kerslake’s work was put back on those records in 2011, the legal disputes continue.
Geoff Tate vs. Queensryche
To those of us who grew up during their late ‘80s / early ‘90s heyday, Queensrÿche seemed like a relatively wholesome band of close, nerdy friends. While that might have been the case at one point, animosity grew within the ranks as frontman Geoff Tate and his wife Susan (who began managing Queensrÿche in 2005) assumed more and more control over band decisions. Without Tate present, the rest of Queensrÿche voted to fire Susan in 2012, which led to the frontman allegedly pulling a knife on his bandmates before a concert in Brazil. When the two camps inevitably split, Tate began using the Queensrÿche name for a project of his own, which led to years of legal headaches for both versions of the band. In the end, Queensrÿche retained control of the brand, while Tate was allowed to form a band called Operation: Mindcrime to play those records in their entirety.
Dave Mustaine vs. Metallica
More times than not, the worst of enemies used to be the best of friends. Nothing hurts quite so much as being wronged by those closest to you, whether that offense is a matter of perception or not. When issues stemming from Dave Mustaine’s substance abuse got him kicked out of Metallica, the ensuing resentment led the guitarist to form his own thrash dynamo, Megadeth. Although peppered with brief moments of respite like such as Mustaine joining Metallica on stage during their 30th anniversary show and the successful Big Four of Thrash tour, it seems that there will always be a degree of bitterness between the two camps.
Mick Mars vs. Mötley Crüe
Citing chronic pain from his ever worsening case of ankylosing spondylitis, when Mötley Crüe’s 71 year old guitarist Mick Mars stepped away from regular touring duties in September of 2022, it was with the understanding that he would still make records with them and play the occasional special event. Unfortunately, his bandmates didn’t see it that way, interpreting his relinquishment of touring duties as retirement from the band. An acrimonious lawsuit is underway, with Mars alleging that the other members of Mötley Crüe tried to remove him as a significant stakeholder in the band’s corporation and business holdings during a shareholders meeting in November. Although originally a touring member only, guitarist John 5 has stepped into Mars’ shoes off the stage as well by joining Crüe in the studio for recording sessions. This ugly battle is developing by the day. We’ll keep you posted.
Varg Vikernes vs. Euronymous
The feud between Dave Mustaine and Metallica might have gotten ugly at points, but at least nobody died because of it. In most likely the most brutal feud in music history, Varg “Count Grishnackh” Vikernes stabbed his Mayhem bandmate Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth 23 times, killing him on the spot. Although Vikernes claims that Euronymous was plotting to kill him and that he acted in self defense, Blackthorn (a friend of Varg’s who accompanied him to Euronymous’ residence that night, although he waited in the car as events unfolded) alleges that Vikernes had planned to carry out the murder ahead of time. Only one person in the world knows what really happened and he’s not exactly the most reliable narrator.