Sound — 8
After a 15-year history, 36 Crazyfists has been a fairly prolific band with 5 major releases, but a DVD has always been absent in the catalog. Fans will now be able to check that item off the list, as the Anchorage, Alaska, natives have finally released its first DVD Under A Northern Sky, chronicling a show in their hometown as well as a good deal of behind-the-scenes footage. There aren't a lot of bells and whistles on the new release, which may disappoint the fans who expected a bit more after such a long wait. But when it comes down to it, the concert film is top-notch with an amazing audio mix. Filmed in January of 2009, Under A Northern Sky does one thing extremely well: capturing the essence of Alaskan living. Director Todd Bell intersperses images of the Alaskan surroundings namely mountains and various frozen lakes in between the band footage. Seeing the band (each member bundled up for warmth except the drummer) rehearse in a modest garage certainly gets the point across that this is a band that came from humble surroundings. Bell also included home video footage that the members of 36 Crazyfists took years and years ago, and it's fascinating to see just how much age truly does mellow even the hardest partiers. The live show does maintain energy throughout the 11 tracks in the setlist. Among the highlights are We Gave It Hell, At The End of August (a song that inspires vocalist Brock Lindow to stage dive and keep singing while doing so), and I'll Go Until My Heart Stops, which features some absolutely amazing lower guitar tones. Lindow does get slightly more winded toward the end of the show, but it's to be expected given the amount of energy he expends. As was mentioned earlier, one of the most impressive aspects of Under A Northern Sky is the audio quality, which delivers a perfect balance of the vocals and the instrumentation. Both rhythmic and solo guitar parts can be heard extremely well, which is a feat that not ever DVD accomplishes.
Content — 5
Under A Northern Sky is a fairly impressive debut DVD from 36 Crazyfists, but be prepared for the bare basics. The 78-minute concert film is the main focus, and basically no extras are included on the DVD. In fact, the opening menu doesn't even seem to have the option to select certain chapters. The band wisely does include interviews within the documentary film, but that's still a bit less than what you might expect from the typical DVD release these days. Oddly enough, one of the most entertaining moments comes at the end when the band watches a mock rockumentary (featuring a much younger Brock and gang) that they created years ago. It's simply priceless to see the current-day players' reaction.
Production Quality — 8
It does seem that 36 Crazyfists went for quality and not quantity. The concert film is actually quite engaging, and the footage has plenty to do with that fact. The cinematographer has a keen eye, and that becomes apparent during scenes that capture the breathtaking Alaskan environment. The concert itself utilizes several different camera shots, which although somewhat manic in their final edit, still provides multiple views of the show.
Overall Impression — 7
Regardless of how long you've been aware of 36 Crazyfists, the footage from 10-plus years ago is a hilarious look at the fresh-faced musicians who were still dreaming of making it big. Flashing forward to the band today, it's obvious from their consistent praise and thanks of their audience that they don't take their success for granted. Under A Northern Sky is a hallmark of sorts for 36 Crazyfists because, not only is it their first DVD, it also marks the band coming full circle and returning to play in their hometown. It is lacking in quantity when compared with other DVDs, but it's a noble debut effort.