EXHORDER’s KYLE THOMAS: ‘I Think It’s A Good Thing PANTERA Is Back In Business’

In a new interview with the “Scars And Guitars” podcast, vocalist Kyle Thomas of New Orleans-based thrash metal pioneers EXHORDER once again spoke about his band’s supposed influence on PANTERA‘s decision to move from a power metal act to a more aggressive form of thrash. Asked if he still gets questions about the fact that EXHORDER played a more extreme form of metal a few years before PANTERA adopted a similar musical approach, Kyle said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “Every once in a while I meet somebody who feels the need to pull me aside and tell me how important it is that they tell me that they think that we were before PANTERA. Like, whatever. And I always try to take it and deal with it in the most polite way possible ’cause people aren’t saying that necessarily to incite me in some kind of way; usually they think they’re telling me something that I’d like to hear.”

Referencing the fact that PANTERA is currently touring with a lineup that includes surviving members Philip Anselmo (vocals) and Rex Brown (bass) alongside guitarist Zakk Wylde (OZZY OSBOURNE, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY) and drummer Charlie Benante (ANTHRAX),Kyle said: “I think there’s room in this world for both bands. I think it’s a good thing PANTERA is back in business. I think it’s good for hard rock and heavy metal, and the more, the merrier. They worked extremely hard — a lot harder than we did — for their success, and who cares whether the chicken or the egg came first. To me, they’re both delicious.

“I’ve been friends with Phil for a long time,” he continued. “I always got along nicely with Darrell [late PANTERA guitarist ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbott] and Rex. That platinum record on the wall right there was a gift from Phil for ‘Far Beyond Driven’, presented to me and my band PENALTY at the time, which became FLOODGATE. It was just his way of basically saying, ‘Hey, thanks, man.’ And I know what he meant. We were a big influence on him personally, and he returned the favor by spreading our demos around to people and turning people on to us. He was, at one time, probably the biggest cheerleader this band ever had.”

Thomas previously discussed the comparisons between EXHORDER and PANTERA in a November 2022 interview with Heavy Culture. At the time, he said: “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 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 as well. I’ve been friendly with Rex 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,” Thomas said. “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,” Kyle concluded. “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.

EXHORDER will release its fourth full-length album, “Defectum Omnium”, on March 8 via Nuclear Blast Records.

Joining Thomas in the band’s current lineup are former CANNIBAL CORPSE guitarist Pat O’Brien, who made his live debut with EXHORDER at the 2022 Maryland Deathfest, bassist Jason VieBrooks and drummer Sasha Horn.

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