Ozzfest became the launching pad for many metal and hard rock bands through the late ’90s into the 2000s, but what about the lineup that launched Ozzfest itself? Yes, you’re well aware of Ozzy Osbourne, the festival’s namesake, and his exploits both before and after the launch of the hugely successful branded touring festival, but what about the other acts?

Did you know that Ozzfest wasn’t even a touring festival in its inaugural year? It was a two-stop event taking place at the Blockbuster Desert Sky Pavilion in Phoenix on Oct. 25, 1996 and at the Glen Helen Blockbuster Pavilion in San Bernardino, California on the outskirts of Los Angeles on Oct. 26, 1996.

That initial music weekend found 13 acts performing across two stages with Ozzy serving as the centerpiece, bringing a variety of heavy music to the forefront over the course of the single-day shows. Future years would see Ozzfest expand to a touring festival, taking its brand to the U.K., Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Poland, the Czech Republic, Netherlands, Portugal, Israel and Japan. It would be both a massive touring festival and later turn into a single-destination event. The most recent Ozzfests even saw it pair with another popular branded metal fest, Knotfest, over two day runs in 2016 and 2017. The last Ozzfest came as a single day stop at the Forum in Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve in 2018.

But for this exercise, we’re taking it back to the very beginnings, revisiting the inaugural lineup of acts that played Ozzfest in the fall of 1996, letting you know where they were at at the time and how their careers evolved after that initial Ozzfest introduction. So let’s start at the top ….

Ozzy Osbourne

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Where Was He Before?

Ozzy Osbourne was essentially starting the third act of his career. After Black Sabbath and a stellar solo career, Ozzy announced his initial retirement tour coinciding with the 1991 No More Tears album. But retirement wasn’t for Ozzy, who issued the Ozzmosis album in 1995 and returned to touring. After a few lineup changes between the album and touring, Osbourne had a touring lineup of drummer Mike Bordin, bassist Robert Trujillo and guitarist Joe Holmes when the initial Ozzfest took place.

The initial Ozzfest came about as an idea after Ozzy was rebuffed by Lollapalooza, one of the major touring festivals of the ‘90s. Viewed as a heavy alternative to the “alternative” festival, Sharon and Jack Osbourne booked a mix of veteran acts and up-and-coming young hard rock and metal groups, while giving Ozzy the platform he rightfully deserved at this point in his legendary career. The first Ozzfest was held over two days in Phoenix, Arizona, and San Bernardino (Devore), California on Oct. 25 and 26, 1996, before evolving into a touring festival the following year. Who knew at the time how influential and impactful it would become, as Ozzfest’s arrival seemed to sync up perfectly with a sea change in the music landscape favoring heavy nu-metal acts.

Where Was He After?

Ozzfest was the perfect platform to launch Ozzy 3.0. After positive returns from the inaugural two-day festival in ’96, Ozzfest expanded to a full fledged touring festival in ’97, with Osbourne using a reunion with Black Sabbath to fuel interest. By ’97, nu-metal was starting to get a foothold at mainstream rock radio, and Ozzfest gave many of those new acts the high profile platform from which to launch their careers.

It didn’t hurt Ozzy’s career either, as Ozzy’s public prominence likely opened the door to The Osbournes reality series, that catapulted the singer and his family into a new kind of celebrity. That in turn brought out more fans to Ozzfest shows and allowed Ozzy to power through the 2000s with the Down To Earth, Under Cover, Black Rain and Scream albums. In this third era of Ozzy’s career, he became beloved universally and saw the door opened to future collaborations with Black Sabbath as well, helping raise their profile in the process.

Though Ozzfest has been less prominent in recent years as Ozzy has dealt with health issues, he remains actively recording, issuing the Ordinary Man and Patient Number 9 albums already this decade.

Slayer

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Where Were They Before?

In May of 1996, Slayer released their seventh studio album, Undisputed Attitude. Icons of the thrash metal scene of the ‘80s, the band was slumping a bit at the time as the album arrived to middling reviews and a No. 34 debut on the Billboard 200 Album Chart. The largely overlooked album featured the songs “I Hate You,” “Gemini” and “Abolish Government/Superficial Love.”

Where Were They After?

Ozzfest gave Slayer a solid boost at that point in their career, which is why they likely returned to the festival two years later for the U.K. tour leg, as well as in in 1999, 2002 and 2004, making them one of Ozzfest’s most frequent favorites. The band’s career rebounded with the start of a new decade as they issued God Hates Us All, Christ Illusion and World Painted Blood in the 2000s before finishing out their career with 2015’s Repentless and a 2019 farewell tour.

Danzig

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Where Were They Before?

Glenn Danzig had juggled various bands throughout his career, and 2006 saw the musician dabbling in a little bit of everything. He was touring under the Danzig name in support of his two-year-old album, Circle of Snakes, but also flexed his musical chops with his classical music-leaning solo set Black Aria II prior to the Ozzfest shows. While touring under the Danzig name, Glenn invited his former Misfits bandmate Doyle to play a special set of Misfits songs during shows.

Where Were They After?

Propelled a bit by Ozzfest, Danzig invited former Samhain bassist Steve Zing to join him at select shows in late 1996, revisiting their Samhain material. A Lost Tracks of Danzig compilation followed in 1997, and Danzig continued to record with Deth Red Sabaoth, Skeletons and Black Laden Crown spooling out over the next decade. Danzig took an unexpected turn in 2020 recording an album of covers dubbed Danzig Sings Elvis.

Biohazard

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Where Were They Before?

Biohazard had a brand new album in 1996, with Mata Leao arriving in June of that year. The band’s fourth studio album cracked the Billboard 200 at No. 170, significantly down from their previous outing. They released the songs “Authority” and “A Lot to Learn” from the outing, so Ozzfest ’96 gave them a shot to show off some of their music amongst metal’s finest.

Where Were They After?

Though part of the initial Ozzfest bill, the band did not return to Ozzfest over the remaining years. The band would release five more studio albums, but split up in 2006, eventually returning in 2008. A period of inactivity and the pandemic kept the group off the radar for a period, but the band was reportedly back working together in 2022, setting up some 2023 festival appearances with talks of a new album and documentary.

Sepultura

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Where Were They Before?

The Brazilian groove metal outfit Sepultura were on top of their game, as evidenced by their 1996 album Roots becoming one of metal’s seminal albums. But behind the scenes, trouble was brewing as Max Cavalera’s stepson Dana Wells was killed in an accident and the rest of the band was seeking to fire their manager Gloria, who was Max’s wife and Dana’s mother.

Where Were They After?

As stated, tensions were building behind the scenes, but Cavalera was still part of the group when they hit the stage in October 1996, not officially leaving the band until December of the same year. Derrick Green was soon named to fill the void, and he’s remained the band’s frontman over nine more studio albums in the years since. The band’s commercial success has fallen off stateside, though they remain a favorite of metal fans around the world, with a new album expected in 2024.

Fear Factory

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Where Were They Before?

Though the album wasn’t a big commercial hit, Fear Factory were touring in support of their 1995 sophomore set Demanufacture, which would yield the songs “Replica” and “Dog Day Sunrise” and later become regarded as one of, if not, their best album. Still relatively unknown at the time, they were an early day performer on the main stage at Ozzfest in 1996.

Where Were They After?

It’s safe to say much bigger things were ahead for Fear Factory, and Ozzfest played a role in that. The band returned in 1997 for the first touring year of the festival, then continued to build their name on 1998’s U.K. Ozzfest dates, and being second-billed on the second stage in 1999. They’d find some of their biggest success with 1998’s Obsolete and 2001’s Digimortal, issuing eight more albums after their initial Ozzfest appearance. Internal strife took its toll on the group, with guitarist Dino Cazares currently serves as the lone remaining original member after a series of lawsuits amongst their most popular lineup.

Neurosis

neurosis, steve von till, scott kelly

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Where Were They Before?

By 1996, Neurosis were pretty well established though not a hugely commercial act. That year saw them release their fifth studio album, Through Silver in Blood, in April. The epic and more experimental collection yielded some of their best reviews to date, and Ozzfest’s main stage gave them a chance to show off what they could do live.

Where Were They After?

Neurosis made an impression, eventually landing a second stage Ozzfest spot in 1997, but that was the end of their Ozzfest run. The band would go on to release seven more studio albums after that initial Ozzfest. Singer-guitarist Scott Kelly would also become a frequent guest on Mastodon’s albums as well. But things took a turn for the worse in 2019 when Kelly confessed to allegations of abuse toward his wife and announced his retirement from music and public life. The band expelled Kelly from the group, and still have not made an announcement concerning their future music plans.

Narcotic Gypsy

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Where Were They Before?

Not every Ozzfest band was a huge success story. Case in point, Narcotic Gypsy, who opened the main stage at Ozzfest ’96 promoting their God Trip album. The four-piece outfit was led by singer Brent Petterson, playing a bass-heavy grungy style of music, with “Invisible Strings,” “My Ease” and “Broken” serving as their most popular songs.

Where Were They After?

Narcotic Gypsy seemingly fell off the map after their Ozzfest performance, with God Trip appearing to be their only release and relatively little trace of the band on the Internet.

Second Stage

Earth Crisis

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Where Were They Before?

In 1996, Earth Crisis were still an up-and-coming hardcore outfit, who just released their influential sophomore set, Gomorrah’s Season Ends, about a week prior to their Ozzfest performance. After an impressive debut with 1995’s Destroy the Machines, there was enough buzz on the band for them to be given the headliner spot on the second stage.

Where Were They After?

Though building a solid rep early in their career, Earth Crisis started to tail off a bit commercially, issuing three more studio albums before splitting up in 2001, citing family responsibilities. The band splintered into two acts — Freya and Isolated — before eventually reforming in 2007 and returning with 2009’s To the Death album. They’ve since released two more albums, but have only yielded a pair of EPs since their last full-length Salvation of the Innocents in 2014.

Powerman 5000

Powerman 5000

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Where Were They Before?

Powerman 5000 were still a couple years away from their big commercial breakout when they hit the Ozzfest second stage in 1996, but there was enough buzz to give them a solid slot on the bill. The band had issued their debut album, The Blood-Splat Rating System, a year prior, earning a trio of Boston Phoenix Readers Poll awards. A year later, they’d be picked up by DreamWorks, with their debut reissued under the title Mega!! Kung Fu Radio.

Where Were They After?

Indeed breakout success would come with 1999’s Tonight the Stars Revolt album, featuring their rock radio hit “When Worlds Collide.” The band hasn’t really matched that success since, but have remained one of rock’s most prolific and consistent groups with eight more albums following in the 2000s. The most recent was 2020’s The Noble Rot.

READ MORE: A Ranking of Every Ozzfest Lineup From Worst to Best

Coal Chamber

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Where Were They Before?

Ozzfest was literally a key launching point for Coal Chamber, who recorded their first album and released it in February 1997, just a few short months after that appearance. The band’s start might have come quicker had it not been for a brief bump in the road where frontman Dez Fafara quit the group in the spring of 1995, only to return a few months later with the band reclaiming their record deal with Roadrunner in the process.

Where Were They After?

Ozzfest played a key role in Coal Chamber’s development over the next few years. They joined the first traveling tour year of Ozzfest in 1997, then hopped on board both the U.K. and U.S. editions of Ozzfest in 1998. This came as Coal Chamber released two of their biggest albums – their self-titled 1997 debut and 1999’s Chamber Music follow-up. Tensions began to mount during the support of 2002’s Dark Days album. Bassist Rayna Foss exited after the album was recorded, while Fafara and Meegs Rascon had an onstage altercation. The group would fire drummer Mike Cox later that year, and by 2003 the band has split with Fafara going on to start up DevilDriver. The group would eventually reform in 2011, but by 2018 they had split again. But just last year (2022), Coal Chamber reformed for the third time, with Fafara indicating that new music might follow.

Cellophane

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Where Were They Before?

Much like Coal Chamber, Ozzfest was a bit of a launching point for Cellophane, who would issue their self-titled debut album in 1997. The band, which formed in 1995, got signed to Virgin Records off the strength of a demo produced by Ross Robinson. After a small club tour yielded some positive returns, they were contacted about playing Ozzfest.

Where Were They After?

The band enjoyed some positive things after their Ozzfest appearance, teaming up with producer Howard Benson for their 1997 debut album and landing the song “Down” on the soundtrack for the film Wishmaster. But things took a turn when singer Shannon Crawford opted for a solo career during pre-production of their sophomore set. Essentially, the band’s tenure was brief, but it should be noted that bassist Doug Ardito rebounded well by joining up with Puddle of Mudd a few years later. Drummer Mark Bistany also spent time with Otep and Puddle of Mudd and guitarist John Chase recorded with Michael Jackson.

King Norris

king norris, frank fallon, fred norris, robert boyd

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Where Were They Before?

Though relatively unknown in the music scene, the band’s biggest claim to fame was that frontman Fred Norris was a well-known radio personality on Howard Stern’s radio show.

Where Were They After?

The group did eventually parlay their performances into a 1999 studio album, Animal, which leaned more hard rock and metal in sound.

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