In a brand new interview with Nick Perkel of Aquarian Weekly, vocalist Kyle Thomas of New Orleans-based thrash metal pioneers EXHORDER was asked if he was aware of his band's influence on PANTERA's decision to move from a power metal act to a more aggressive form of thrash. He responded: "A lot of that had to do with Phil's [Anselmo] presence and influence. He was from [New Orleans] and sang with RAZOR WHITE, and [then] joined PANTERA. Even before they made their change with 'Cowboys From Hell', the 'Power Metal' album was a significant leap for them [Laughs]… It's probably my favorite PANTERA record. He was also a big fan of ours, but also instrumental in helping us build our popularity in the Dallas/Fort Worth area because he was such an influential person there. He listened to our demo. He turned a lot of people on to us. I'm grateful to him for that. We remain friends to this day. There is a mutual respect and an influence that we probably have on each other."
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."
Last month, EXHORDER parted ways with its founding guitarist Vinnie LaBella. The remaining members of the group later issued a statement saying that they will fulfill their "touring and recording obligations for 2020 and beyond."
Thomas is now the sole remaining founding member of EXHORDER, which released its first album in 27 years, "Mourn The Southern Skies", last September via Nuclear Blast Records. The band is rounded out by Jason Viebrooks (HEATHEN) on bass, Marzi Montazeri (ex-SUPERJOINT RITUAL, PHILIP H. ANSELMO & THE ILLEGALS) on guitar and Sasha Horn (FORBIDDEN) on drums.