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Actress. Activist. Influencer. YouTube celebrity. Filmmaker. Screenwriter. Model. Nudist. Playboy Playmate. Now add MCing to the ever-growing list of credentials of rags to riches entrepreneur Stormi Maya, the curvaceous wonder of nature from New York for whom no challenge is ever too great. On “Body Of Work” Maya teams up with producer Donald Robinson Cole (or Megadon) and is a quarter of an hour long throwback to some of the smoothest 80s and 90s hiphop nostalgia. The EP boasts two potential hit singles and has some of the catchiest beats of recent memory. Not only is Stormi Maya glib and easy to look at, her clever lyrics cut fast and deep. There's far more to this girl than a wealthy chest and ever-shrinking pieces of fabric. After having bared her body, Stormi Maya now bares her soul.

Who is Stormi Maya? She’s a multi-talented, clothing averse bombshell from the Bronx of mixed Hispanic-Irish descent that started modeling at the tender age of sixteen and cut her teeth in community theaters in the New York area. From there she reinvented herself as a YouTube celebrity and Instagram babe. In no time Stormi Maya was setting the internet alight with her bikini and lingerie pictures. Naturally Playboy followed and her October 2015 spread was such a raving success in the Croatian, Venezuelan and Slovenian editions that Playboy publishing barely was able to meet the demand in what has been called the fastest turnaround in the magazine’s history. One thing led to another and before long Stormi Maya was directing her own shorts and writing her own screenplays. Together with fellow model Alanna Forte, Stormi Maya is one of the regulars in the stock company from Californian fringe filmmaker Rene Perez. More recently she could be seen in the Spike Lee Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It. In short, Stormi Maya is a self-made woman who’s constantly looking to branch out. It’s only logical that after modeling and acting, a music career would be the next big thing.

If there’s one thing that Stormi undeniably is, it’s fun. She's one ambitious, fiercely intelligent, hard partyin' piece of eye candy. Like early Eminem she’ll poke fun at anyone and anything just because she can. Alliterative opener ‘Conscious Coochie’ is a club banger laced with porn samples that would make Gorgasm and Lividity proud. Don’t be confused by the persisting sampled moans as Stormi discusses her sexuality and prowess in the sack. In ‘Fake Ass Titties’, the EP’s tour de force and crowning achievement, Stormi candidly admits that she likes “big ass titties like everyone else.” The earworm chorus hammers the point home in case anybody was otherwise distracted. Maya is a woman clearly comfortable in her own skin and what better call for more body positivity than from a model that famously bared hers? ‘Thick Skin’ chronicles her experiences with celebritydom, cyberbullying and the darker side of fan culture. ‘Mouth Do’ is an eloquent protest against the entrenched but still socially accepted male behavior of catcalling, something in dire need of changing. ‘Aphro Puff’ is a seething scorcher that puts detractors that question her blackness in place. Nothing is more powerful than a woman unafraid to voice exactly what’s on her chest. Hers is even legendary in her own time.

Maya’s lyrics are thick on sexual innuendo and full of tacky witticisms and asides that recall the best of Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown. Stormi is rightly indignant about a lot of things but none of her raps are overly vulgar or full of gratuitous expletives. In 'Mouth Do' and 'Aphro Puff' the few strategically placed F-bombs hit with untold power and surgical precision. Stormi Maya is an outspoken feminist and that's exactly what the hiphop world needs right now. In these times of #metoo “Body Of Work” is a natural and timely response against everything from toxic masculinity, to the recent allegations leveled at Hollywood moguls Harvey Weinstein and Luc Besson but especially in light of Ke$ha’s protracted court battle against her producer Dr. Luke, one that almost ended costing her her livelihood. Nothing on “Body Of Work” is left to the imagination, from the artwork to the music videos and the lyrics – everything is there for a reason. It’s all part of a larger plan. In just a scant 16 minutes Stormi Maya touches upon everything from sex-positive feminism, bodylove, social – and economic inequalities, to celebrity culture and the patriarchy. How often does a debut coincide with recent events? Not all that often.

This being an EP Stormi lets not a single second go to waste and given how brief “Body Of Work” is, it's free of needless intros, interludes, commercial breaks, and random sonic asides that clutter up albums in this genre. Brevity is Maya’s greatest ally. 5 songs, 16 minutes. It’s enough to whet anyone’s appetite as to what she'd able to cook up in a full album format. A full Stormi Maya album is only a matter of time at this point. Her collaboration with Megadon has resulted in an unbelievably smooth production ensuring that this could be picked up by radio channels across the world. As a general rule we’d don’t ofen venture out of comfort zone when it comes to music, but Stormi Maya has massive cross-market appeal. It’s the perfect antithesis to what passes as hiphop these days. For a throwback to 80s and 90s hiphop you could do far worse. That this EP comes from a small independent artist makes it all the better. Hopefully Stormi Maya will be returning with a follow-up to this debut EP sooner rather than later.

Few are going to doubt Erik Rutan’s dedication to the cause of death metal. He got his start in formative New Jersey death/thrash metal combo Ripping Corpse, joined Morbid Angel for the “Covenant” world tour and recorded “Domination” and later “Gateways to Annihilation” with them. More recently he helmed the second Warfather record “The Grey Eminence” in 2016 and Morbid Angel’s surprisingly solid “Kingdoms Disdained” a year after that in his Mana Recording Studios in St. Petersburg, Florida - the new haven for underground metal, foreign and domestic - in very much the same way Morrisound Recording was in the nineties. Rutan lives and breathes death metal and he has never written a lesser record with his Hate Eternal. While age hasn’t dulled Rutan or his band in the slightest, his writing has become infinitely more nuanced, especially in recent years. “Upon Desolate Sands” is everything that “Infernus” was but with far greater nuance.

“Fury & Flames” is a well-documented black page in the band’s history and it was marred by more than a peculiar and hostile reverb-laden production. As far as we’re concerned “I, Monarch” is the penultimate Hate Eternal recording followed closely by “Conquering the Throne”. “Upon Desolate Sands” is the sort of record that we’d usually like on principle alone. Yet, as much as we hate eternally to admit it, our reaction to it was lukewarm at best and completely indifferent at worst. Which is strange because Hate Eternal has a resumé that pretty much speaks for itself at this point. It wouldn’t be a Hate Eternal record if there weren’t the obligatory line-up shuffles. Apparently it’s impossible for Rutan to hold on to any drummer for any length of time. Chason Westmoreland didn’t last beyond the “Infernus” album and he was replaced by former Necrophagist and Obscura skinsman Hannes Grossmann, who’s also currently serving in German death metal outfit Alkaloid and Swiss death-doom combo Tryptikon. “Upon Desolate Sands” is very much a collaborative effort with J.J. Hrubovcak contributing as much as Rutan himself.

Hannes Grossman (left), Erik Rutan (middle) and J.J. Hrubovcak (right)

“Upon Desolate Sands”, the first of the third trilogy, sounds very different from any of this band’s prior records. ‘The Violent Fury’ delivers just that but what quickly becomes apparent is that Hate Eternal sounds far more controlled and stealthily melodic than any prior records. The overall pace is far lower too, something which tracks as ‘Nothingness Of Being’ and ‘Dark Age Of Ruin’ probably evince better than any other. ‘Portal Of Myriad’ on the other hand is vintage Hate Eternal with increased dissonance. The title track is bookended by hypnotizing wordless chants from one Małgorzata Gwózdz and is reminiscent of ‘Coronach’ from “Fury & Flames” for exactly that reason. In keeping with recent traditions “Upon Desolate Sands” is concluded by an instrumental. More than any record before is Rutan’s latest offering rife with classic Morbid Angel influence and the blinding velocity that once was his calling card is used far more sparingly this time around. In a sense “Upon Desolate Sands” leans closer towards “I, Monarch” than it does to “King Of All Kings”. Since “Infernus” Rutan’s vocals aren’t as guttural as they once were and the soloing has become far more melodic and extensive than it was on any of the earlier records. Hrubovcak now has served longer than Jared Anderson and Randy Piro, individually and has been Rutan’s trusted songwriting partner as long as both of his predecessors combined. The drum position remains as volatile as ever whereas the Rutan-Hrubovcak axis proves ever fruitful.

Those hoping for a return to the low-end heaviness of “I, Monarch” will find the production on “Upon Desolate Sands” fittingly matter-of-fact, arid, and, well, dry. The clarity and texture from “Infernus” remain intact while it does not nearly have the low-end weight that served the productions on Warfather’s “The Grey Eminence” and Morbid Angel’s “Kingdoms Disdained” so well. Rutan was never kind to the bass guitar and its rubbery tone possesses all the clarity and definition you could possibly want but is entirely without heft or body otherwise. Over the years the drum production has underwent a few staggering transformations yet “Upon Desolate Sands” for the most part carries over the warm tones from “Infernus”. Build from the same template as its predecessor “Upon Desolate Sands” is more of a continuation instead of a progression from what “Infernus” did before it. Erik Rutan stays loyal to the slightly modernized sound that Hate Eternal adopted in recent years and like any other entry in his discography there are no real complaints to be leveled at it as such. Rutan is a respected and widely decorated death metal warrior for a good reason and “Upon Desolate Sands” caters to fans of his work in exactly the ways they want. While offering no shocking innovations it solidifies Hate Eternal’s well-deserved place among the death metal elite.

The third Hate Eternal trilogy puts the focus on ancient antiquity and historical subjects and it’s incredible how far Rutan’s writing has come since the releasing of the now-legendary “promo ’97 / Engulfed In Grief” split demo tape in 1997. On “Conquering the Throne” Hate Eternal sounded like the band Diabolic always wished it was, “King Of All Kings” is a death metal classic for a reason but it wouldn’t be until “I, Monarch” that Rutan’s writing showed some mention worthy individuality. “Fury & Flames” saw the band in a state of flux and temporary disarray after the untimely loss of Jared Anderson. We skipped over “Phoenix Amongst the Ashes” entirely and it wouldn’t be until 2015’s “Infernus” that we started paying to Rutan’s band once more. The only notable change is Eliran Kantor replacing Paul Romano on “Infernus’” as Hate Eternal’s resident cover artist but established bands on major labels are hardly the place to look for innovation in terms of visuals. Hate Eternal is the last band to accuse of fatigue of any kind but like the most recent Malevolent Creation album the formula is starting to show its rather evident limitations. “Upon Desolate Sands” is slower overall but Hate Eternal has lost none of its searing intensity. Things are looking up for Hate Eternal and this new trilogy might just be their most memorable. Time wil tell…