A HARD-ROCKING Rotherham tribute band showed their “metal” as they saw off the opposition to be hailed as the best of their kind in the business.
Hellbent Forever, a five-strong salute to the stormy sights and sounds of Judas Priest, emerged victorious from a global showdown in which the votes were cast by some true rock legends.
Singer Mark “Wilf” Wilford, called their victory “absolutely astonishing”, adding: “I’m sitting here with a huge Cheshire Cat smile.”
The judges included David Ellefson of Megadeth, Charlie Benante of Anthrax, Dave “Snake” Sabo of Skid Row and Bon Jovi, Mark Mendoza of Twisted Sister and Chris Jericho, former WWE wrestler and frontman of Fozzy, with the latter casting the final vote to give Hellbent a 3-2 win over US act Call for the Priest.
Mark, of Wellgate, said: “We were contacted about a month ago about Tribute Wars doing a ‘quarantine’ episode on Judas Priest tributes from around the world.
“We put ourselves forward as the best in the country and made it through to the actual episode as the official UK nomination.
“We had to submit a live video of us in action and gather the most votes and likes on their Facebook page to get through to the final.
“Because of lockdown, they did the judging by Zoom meeting.
“And then last week we were announced as the winners.”
Hellbent Forever and Call for the Priest both performed the… Victim of Changes.
While the judges were split over who edged it, Jericho gave the crucial nod to Hellbent, pointing out Mark’s authenticity in recreating the vocals of iconic frontman Rob Halford.
Mark said the band – including Juan Pozo, Mark Dimbleby, Haydn Dean and Mark’s brother Drew on drums - had been together since 2009, having played their The band first gig together at the Charter Arms in Eastwood Lane.
“We have played Belgium, Greece, Rhodes and all over the UK,” he said.
“We’ve played all the big places.
“All our stuff is handmade by our guitarist Juan, who portrays (Priest guitarist) KK Downing in the band.
“He’s made all our stage gear himself - with a lot of leather and studs. They are all exact replicas.
“I’ve been a drummer since I was eight and used to play with Hayden and Mark in another band.
“Juan came into our lives many years ago and he is a massive Judas Priest fan.
“We had never played any Priest and he asked us to do some.
“We said fine, so long as he played it with us.
“We expected it would be just one gig but it snowballed from there and we’ve been doing it for more of my life than is health, certainly more than my wife would like!”
As well as the glory of their title, Hellbent Forever’s prize is expected to include a haul of instruments and equipment from the contest’s sponsors.
Mark said the band were back in rehearsal after being separated by lockdown and hoping to get back to live gigs as soon as possible.”