November 25, 2022

In a new interview with Heavy Culture, vocalist Kyle Thomas of New Orleans-based thrash metal pioneers EXHORDER was once again asked about his band's supposed influence on PANTERA's decision to move from a power metal act to a more aggressive form of thrash. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "PANTERA had an evolution. Early, they were kind of glam-ish, and I don't know if necessarily the music was as glam as maybe the appearance. But a lot of heavy metal bands… I mean, I played in heavy metal bands before I was in EXHORDER where I wore the spandex pants and black eyeliner. We all kind of did at some point — not everybody, but some people did. A lot of the thrash bands we love today — SLAYER, DESTRUCTION — they wore makeup and leather and spiked wristbands and stuff.

"PANTERA were very good before even, before [singer] Philip Anselmo joined them. They were very good and well established at what they did, a very hard-working band. Now, Phil is from New Orleans, like we are. We've known each other since we were teenagers. We've been friends for a very long time. In fact, that platinum album on [my] wall back there was a gift from Phil. That's for [PANTERA's] 'Far Beyond Driven' [album]. So, we've been friends for a long time.

"I think a lot of the controversy was media- and fan-driven more than anything," Kyle explained. "For me, I was friends with Darrell [Abbott, PANTERA guitarist] as well. I've been friendly with Rex [Brown, PANTERA bassist] a long, long time. I've known these guys for years.

"Were we doing what they ended up doing before they were? In a way, there was things that we were doing that they eventually did and we were doing them first. But that doesn't necessarily mean, I think, that there was any kind of blatant rip-off or anything.

"Phil almost joined EXHORDER for a minute. The band was reforming and I wasn't interested, so Phil was asked by the band if he wanted to sing, and he said yes. And when I found out Phil wanted my job, I took my job back. [Laughs] That's kind of how that went.

"There were a lot of bands interested in Phil at the time. I know METAL CHURCH was interested in Phil. So I think he went to the guys in PANTERA and he was, like, 'I'm really interested in doing something a little bit more than what we're doing right now. So y'all hear me out.' And I think they just kind of hashed it out.

"I know we were one of… We're still one of Phil's favorite bands," Kyle added. "He's told me this before, and people I know tell me the same thing. I know he's a huge fan, and he helped us tremendously build the underground in the Dallas/Fort Worth area when he was living out there with the PANTERA guys just building all that stuff.

"It's a frustrating thing to me, because I guess it's kind of like the poor man's version of METALLICA versus MEGADETH. I don't think it needs to be that big of a conversation anymore. Basically, we've reformed back in 2017, and we're still going strong, about to do our second album in that timeframe. And they're [PANTERA] putting some shows together with some friends to bring the band and songs back to life, which I think is a great thing. So there's room for both."

Back in 2013, Anselmo denied that EXHORDER was a major influence on PANTERA's sound, telling Examiner.com: "It's absolutely untrue. EXHORDER was a killer band, don't get me wrong. And for their time in the local scene in New Orleans in 1988, as far as skill level, they really upped the game for everyone. To this day, I'm still really good friends with their singer, who is now the singer for TROUBLE. Kyle and I come from the same school of heavy metal vocals — Rob Halford, Don Doty from DARK ANGEL, and Tom Araya — so there are similarities between us, but musically, I don't hear it at all."

In a 2007 interview with Midwest Metal, Kyle addressed the possibility that EXHORDER inspired PANTERA's more aggressive early 1990s approach, saying: "The thing I hate the most of this topic is just how handcuffed we are to their success. Did they rip us off? Possibly. Was it deliberate? Maybe. Were they influenced by us? Definitely. Did they work a helluva lot harder than we did? Absolutely. Case closed."

Thomas is now the sole remaining founding member of EXHORDER, which parted ways with original guitarist Vinnie LaBella in February 2020.

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