Rockbitch: Bitchcraft (1997)

For years, whenever I’d look through someone’s list of bootlegs, they always had this movie listed. I always wondered why and then I watched this movie.

Rockbitch used to be called Red Abyss and was, like most magic-based things in the UK, part of a matriarchal, polygamous pagan community. The band was called Cat Genetica before that and was started by bassist Amanda Smith-Skinner (“the Bitch”) and guitarist Tony Skinner (“the Beast”).

Somehow along the way, their music got heavier and they decided to start getting nude on stage, then pretty much putting on live BDSM sex shows while performing. Think The Genitorturers in the U.S., because they were also obsessed with female genital mutilation, eating disorders, body dysmorphia and menstruation.

After a notorious series of concerts, TVAmsterdam arranged a concert in Zaandam, recording the experience and adding extra footage to create this documentary. Rockbitch is an acquired taste musically, but if you like NWOBHM-style bands, you’ll probably like them. You may have some difficulty getting past their constant nudity, whipping and on-stage oral sex, but they subscribed to a feminist ideal that stated that women had just as much a right to own their sexuality and make a rock show out of it as the guys did.

While the band never broke any laws in the areas where they performed and often tried to only do private shows, they ceased performing live in 2002.

Amanda and Jo from this band went on to form Syren, who supported Hawkwind on some tours. Julie, the lead singer, still performs under the name Krow, with the majority of her output being “noise terror punk.”

Rockbitch comes off like a more serious, more overtly sexualized Cradle of Filth, but one who also had a message of empowerment at their core, not just titillation. In 2017, a Swedish documentary on witchcraft and its feminist connections became the first to ever get to go inside the still-active Rockbitch commune and their pagan roots.

While most of their audiences may have come to get turned on, I love the audacious in-your-face nature of the band. Rock and roll was once, well, something. And it was dangerous, too.

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