Review Summary: Overall, while I generally am not a fan of live albums, this one was surprisingly good, and grew on me after time.
Let me first start with that I have never been nor likely never will be a fan of live albums. It is my belief that if one is to have the unpolished feel of live music, it is best in person, and not via a recording. On the other hand, if I want a recording of a band's music, I at least wish for it to be polished and crisp sounding. However, that said, having always heard that Black Flag was a superb live experience, and asserting in my mind that it was punk, and thus better as a raw and unpolished sound, I decided to buy this album, despite a slightly higher price tag than a studio album. I was pleasantly surprised.
Let us start with a short summarization of the various musical aspects of the album. Instrumentation is crisp and still punk feeling. Never has punk-metal sounded so good. The guitar work is sharp and precise (often jarringly sharp, but this fits the themes of frustration, angst, and anxiety well), and the basslines are to be admired, since they set up the basic rhythm of a lot of the songs. Where the instruments really shine, are in the drumlines however. Hardcore punk is know for its complex drumlines, but never has it been this satisfying. Both complex, and precise, it somehow manages to not verge in to other genres known for complex drumlines (death metal, metalcore, ect.), and still maintains a punk feel. Rollins on vocals is amazing, to say the least. While by no stretch of the imagination a "great" singer in the traditional sense, Rollins manages to submit himself as a top-notch vocalist through use of his raspy and powerfully driving vocals.
Now let us move on to the production aspect. This is where I have one complaint. Rollins is not a particularly clear singer, and for the sound of his voice to be pushed as far back in the sound as it is with this album, makes him nearly inaudible at times. Other than that, the production is clean. The guitars sound crisp, the drums are not overly loud nor overly soft, and the bass can clearly be distinguished in the sound. As for what tracks were picked, we are given a fairly nice variety, ranging from Black Flag's simpler hardcore punk days, to their later heavy metal proto-grungy days, and a few instrumental tracks thrown in for good measure. This is good, as it is a fair representation of Black Flag's body of work.
So, I must say, considering the circumstances, this was a surprisingly good purchase, and as far as live albums go, a definite recommend from me.