This split unites two rather different Finnish bands. Axeslaughter plays oldschool death metal and has made four demo-tapes prior to this split (the latest of 'em is reviewed here: Rampage Debauchery), whereas Sunface plays psychedelic sludge and has previously made two tapes.
On side A we get to hear three two-minute songs of blasting death metal which don't really differ from the earlier Axeslaughter-material. The opening tune is brisk and steady with really gruff growls, and a nice (early years) Morbid Angel-esque guitar solo. A simple and good piece of death metal that shows the band at their fastest in the song's almost grinding parts. The following tune is slower and heavier, and the louder and more commanding growls as well as the simple but powerful drum work really do this one's doomy and dirty atmosphere a great deal of justice. The third song has a hint of groove in its riffs and overall carries a more rocking drive, but is still relentless death metal - it's just a bit lighter than the two earlier songs. The song tells about being inspired by Judas Priest to go on a killing spree, and how could you go wrong with that? Add a nice guitar solo and some sharp feedback to the mix, and the Axeslaughter-side's come to an end.
I greatly respect how Axeslaughter keeps on making releases that have a very different sound from each other, but still sound like works of the same band. These three songs aren't an exception. The soundscape is more "professional" than on the group's earlier works, but it's still easily dusty and harsh enough to create an appealing atmosphere. The harsh dust-covering comes with a cost though, as the riffs definitely would've needed more punch to crack the listener's skull. The songs are no exceptional hits, but still very good ones and present three different but equally strong sides of the band. I would've expected something greater from the Axeslaughter, but on the other hand I would've liked their side to last longer. So, my opinion is a bit divided.
If you like your death metal traditional, honest and with a less perfect production, I can again recommend checking this band out. Axeslaughter is supposed to be releasing a split with Necrolepsy in the near future, which is definitely something I'll be buying.
I didn't like the debut tape by Sunface, as I thought it sounded too traditional doomy sludge and the psychedelic elements were used just as spicings here and there. The second tape "Meditating the Dirt," however, showed a transition towards a more cohesively psychedelic approach to sludge, and its heaviness and passive-aggressive nihilism and contempt made a great impact on me. I'm glad to say that "Southpaw" follows in its footprints.
The song starts with rough, crunchy and bassy guitars and bass creating a steady and rhythmic riff, which soon turns into a more freely flowing and almost jamming one with a short spoken sample on top. This doom-paced and sludgy pulse carries through the big part of the coming six and a half minutes, with a little faster and slightly rocking riff bringing some more strictly structured variation to the flow. The vocals are really harsh and hate-fueled shouts that give the bassy song its much needed sharper edges and additional hostility, whereas the rather lo-fi drums keep up the pace with strong hits but keep away from the spotlight in order to not disturb the riffs' flow.
Overall "Southpaw" is really good, but not exceptional - and thus also similar to Axeslaughter's side. The song has a good flow and an interesting atmosphere, and its intro-sample and delayed fuzz-feedback as the outro show clear effort in making this song function on its own. Yet, in the end, it ends up sounding too passive and even to grab one's total interest, despite the rather unconventional soundscape. It would've needed either more punch or more psychedelia, as now it falls into these territories' awkward and confused middle-ground.
This split is a good one and a descriptive introduction to both of the bands, but I wouldn't say it's a mandatory buy. Both of the bands perform their songs well, but not in a manner that would leave me screaming for more. On the other hand, maybe the bands would've made more of an impact if this was a longer split 12" instead of a 7"? Oh well. An additional thumbs up is given for the overall level of boldness, stylish cover artwork and adding a neat lyric sheet to accompany the split.