Maharaja is a 3 piece band from Dayton, Ohio, USA. They formed in 2013 and Aviarium follows up their first full length album Kali Yuga (2017), and has been released December 2022 via Seeing Red Records. Already the beautiful album cover by (Nicholas Schukay) somehow indicates that the new EP will be heavier than their previous work. And that's what I read on their bandcamp as well, along with the information that "..., the album converses drug addiction, murder, police violence, and the effects of living in a turbulent, depressing place." These topics quasi demand heaviness and aggression.
And that's what you get with the four tracks of Aviarium.
The opener "Hopeless" begins (after the almost obligatory initial feedback noise to let you know this is going to be heavy) with a hypnotizingly repetitive crushing Doom riff that seems to plough a groove into the soil (and your brain), deeper and deeper, producing a thick sludgy mud from where finally the vocals emerge in a desperate and aggressive shouting. They give way to a bluesy guitar melody with a psychedelic Stoner touch that adds a melancholic mood and a sense of fragility.
The initial oscillating guitar sounds in "Soulless" kindle a hazy but frantic atmosphere. Enhanced by a propelling drum part, the guitar played in a percussive way and howling vocals the song quickly builds up a cold and bleak industrial atmosphere. Tremolo guitar adds a post/black metal vibe. It's heavy, it's abrasive, relentless, violent, chaotic and noisy. With a wizardly easiness Maharaja create an intense feel of anxiety.
"Lifeless" is, contrary to what this title suggests, brimming with a fierce and violent energy. It's the shortest track (2:51), still much is happening here, there are so many layered sounds, it's fast, buzzing, swarming and radiating menace. The lyrics are almost spoken like a battle call. This song feels like the soundtrack to a street fight.
The EP closes with "Ballad of the Flightless Bird". With its 10:06 minutes it's the longest track of the EP and here we get more of the Stoner and Doom moments. Starting off slow-paced, with a melancholic mood, it rolls out a thick carpet of layered sound creating a great sense of spacey lushness which is perfectly complemented by the clean-ish vocals. The sludgy feel, though, is always present and as density and intensity grows the noisy depressing harshness takes over again.
With Aviarium Maharaja create an atmosphere that is hauntingly terrifying and hypnotizingly addictive all at once. Their sound is monolithic. The way they flavor their Sludge with Stoner elements is delicately balanced in the sense that it's more than just a pinch, but it doesn't steal the show. There are heavy guitar riffs, thick bass lines, propelling and momentum providing drums and excellent vocals.The songs are well structured and tight. Not one moment of the 24:30 minutes is wasted, everything is filled with atmosphere, impact and purpose.