Merlin (metal band)

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Merlin is a death metal band from Russia formed in 1992 by one of pioneering female growling vocalists and bassist Mary Abaza.

Origin Moscow, Central Region, Russian Federation
Genres Thrash metal, death metal, grindcore
Years active 1992–present
Labels Grind it! Records, GWN Records, CD-Maximum
Members Maria Abaza (vocals, bass)
Alex Ioffe (guitar)
Rinat (guitar)
Vlad Vorona (drums)
Past members See below


Merlin was formed in 1992 by a unique female vocalist and bassist Mary Abaza and one of the best Russian guitarists Alex Ioffe. After a long search, they met Nick Byckoff - the drummer they dreamt of. Before Merlin all of them had a great experience of playing in various styles from hard rock to thrash {1}. The musicians consider the name of their band suitable, because they wanted the name to be original for a death metal band and easy to rememberer for fans, so "merlin” suited the request. Besides they chose Merlin as a symbol of magic power and majesty. Merlin is best known as the warlock featured in Arthurian legends and it is musicians' opinion that he is best of all portrayed in the Stephen King’s book “The Dark Tower”. Also merlin is a predatory bird that tears meat by its claws, its beak in blood and this absolutely reflects their band’s personality. (Incidentally, "merlin" means from French into English "heavy axe", "large hammer", "poleaxe").

Why Mary Abaza is a unique female vocalist? It's because she has got a unique voice of great compass from contralto (overrides male baritone) to soprano (they say, with this rare and uncommon voice, one can be admitted to the Moscow Conservatory without entrance examinations) and withal she is a brilliant growler and added to everything else, she is one of the first female growling vocalists in the world {2}. She got jazz and some classical educations and as she said herself, it helped her to find her own way of singing death metal applying some jazz tricks; by the way it helps her in creating music. When Mary began singing death metal she was crazy about John Tardy (Obituary) as a vocalist and imitated something from his hysterical manner. Then she added to her voice some black metal high tones and worked on timbre and articulation {3}.

Merlin’s first demo "Welcome to Hell" (1992) was played in a Death/Thrash style, but as soon as three months later, they released the second demo, which was more in a Death/Grind direction. However, their third demo "Prisoner of Death" (1994) became the most well known of all three. It was reviewed in a lot of fan'zines worldwide and got a pretty rapturous appreciation{4}. Since their first live performance in 1992, Merlin has been known as the most aggressive and brutal death metal band from Russia and after their album "Deathkoteque", which was released in 1997 and became a real bomb, they were called leaders of Russian Death Metal scene. A lot of songs were included in compilations such a «Thrash your mother», «Deathtalker», «Russian metal ballads» etc. And also there is the track like “Leave Me Alone”, which is dedicated to one of the bands that formed the roots of extreme metal like this, namely “Black Sabbath”. Erik Rutan (Morbid Angel, Hate Eternal), after listening to this album said that few male vocalists can do the same at a level that is high as Mary’s {5}.

In September 2000, their second album «They Must Die» had been released by Hobgoblin records (Russia) in MC format and in January 2001 it was re-released on "Grind It!" records, a division on Great White North Records, Canada, in CD format, for the North-American territory and elsewhere in the world. Later «Deathkoteque» was re-mastered and re-released too at GWN Records. And «They Must Die» had turned out very successful{6}. Merlin wanted to create a conceptual album, very aggressive and brutal and this album contents these requests exactly. It is also more technical and melodic. Plus, Mary experimented a lot more with the vocals on this album. In 1998 they added a second guitarist to the line-up - Arteom "Bolt" Nazarov (ex - Anal Pus). It turned that Arteom was a very competent guitarist with a brilliant sense of rhythm and infallible memory. Since then, they became to work with two guitarists live.

The band conducts concert activity and takes part in all considerable festivals and gigs around Moscow and some other Russian towns and was working on some new material for their up-coming third album "Brutal Constructor", scheduled to come out in 2003 on GWN. Everything would be perfect, Merlin was about to go on a European tour and at its height of recording the new album, the terrible misfortune had happened… On July 13, 2003 their drummer Nick Byckoff died in a car accident. It is an irreplaceable deprivation for the band, because during they played together Nick became like a brother to them. He was a brilliant drummer and his enormous technique amazed not only the audience, but the musicians, too… He was out of any competition; “This guy was fast, tight and intense as hell!”; many idolized him and were quiet right. Musicians still can’t believe that it happened and it seems to them that he simply got tired and left for a while. It need to say that it was Nick who imposed on the band that extremely powerful sound which distinguished the band Merlin for all these years and owing to his incredible mastership they achieved those impossible speeds which drive Merlin’s fans crazy {7}. That was hard to find a new drummer instead of Nick Byckoff. It seemed almost impossible. But it needed to soldier on. Nevertheless, after trying a lot of challengers they dwelled on Anatoly "Alchothron" Boychenko and now it’s possible to see that they have not been mistaken with the choice. Anatoly is really a very interesting drummer with modern and independent way of thinking. He joined the band once and for all in September 2003.

Their album “Brutal Constructor” was recording hard (May 2003 - January 2004). It was very painful to do something after Nick’s death. Mary Abaza: “My voice vanished, because of nerves, a few times we lost the guitar tracks, besides the engineer got serious problems with health… kind of some mysticism, ya see.” But at first they must finish this album “Brutal Constructor”, moreover Nick Byckoff had time to record all drum parts for this album and it is still possible to hear Nick’s magnificent and masterly work, so it was their duty before him to do their best. And they did it. In 2004, Merlin created a real masterpiece - the album "Brutal Constructor". This album contains 9 killer songs, a cover-version of "Zombie Ritual" by Death and a number on the music for the Sergei Eisenstein film "Alexander Nevsky", the cantataAlexander Nevsky” (1938) created by genius Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev {8}. The musicians of Merlin were in earnest about their own interpretation of one of the most renowned cantatas of the 20th century, because Mary Abaza loves classical music very much, especially modern such as Dmitri Shostakovich and Alfred Schnittke and German composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven and Anton Bruckner. In general, music is Mary’s family tradition. Her mother is professional pianist and Mary herself used to play the piano in the childhood{9}. Among their ancestry, there were great composers. Such the influential composer of 20th century music as Igor Stravinsky was a cousin of her great grandfather. Also the author of a well-known romance "Утро туманное" [Utro Tumannoe] (“Foggy morning”), Russian pianist, composer of 19th century – Arkadiy Maximovich Abaza was her forefather {10}.

Thus, the album Brutal Constructor was recorded at Navaho Records during 2003. It was produced by Mary Abaza, Alex Ioffe and Les Disques Great White North enr. Merlin wanted the album to be as brutal as possible: “The music is in beyond the bounds of engineering capability”. At the same time they managed to play it in their own Merlin style, extremely fast and intensive. This work appeared a deserving tribute to Nick’s memory. Brutal Constructor has been included in "European Top 10" death metal albums of 2004.{11}

And of late years Merlin’s line-up changed. Their guitarist Arteom "Bolt" Nazarov, who had played during six years in the band, quit Merlin, but a short time later (January, 2004) they had already had got a new guitar-player instead of Bolt, Sergey "Psycho" Chebanov. He played in the band during 2004 - 2006 and in autumn 2006 a new guitarist Michael "Dead Head" Karpeyev joined the band. Brutal Constructor is Merlin’s latest album and it was released by two labels: in Canada by GWN Records, while for Russia and C.I.S. by Cd-Maximum. In 2004 they re-released their first two albums Deathkoteque and They Must Die at Cd-Maximum.

Now Merlin work on the future album with a new drummer Vlad "Ravendark" Vorona and new guitarist Rinat. Also, they have a fresh video material which will be included in a future DVD.


Сurrent members[edit]

  • Mary Abaza — vocals, bass, lyrics (1992-present)
  • Alexander Ioffe — guitar (1992-present)
  • Rinat — guitars (2008-present)
  • Vlad "Ravendark" Vorona — drums (2007-present)


  • Nick Byckoff — drums (1992–2003)
  • Arteom "Bolt" Nazarov — guitar (1998–2004)
  • Anatoly "Alchothron" Boychenko — drums (2003–2007)
  • Sergey "Psycho" Chebanov — guitar (2004–2006)
  • Michael "Dead Head" Karpeyev — guitar (2006–2007)



Studio albums[edit]

  • 1997: Deathkoteque
  • 2000: They Must Die
  • 2004: Brutal Constructor


  • 1992: "Welcome to Hell"
  • 1992: "Die"
  • 1994: "Prisoner of Death"

About the article[edit]

All information for this article is based on different interviews with Mary Abaza and Alex Ioffe. Merlin's biography from the official MySpace page was used as well. These interviews you can find on following websites:

External links[edit]