Mary Abaza is the lead singer/bassist for the extremely brutal Russian death metal band MERLIN. That's about all I know about her, but I really feel she is more than worthy of an interview. It's notable enough being a female in a death metal band, or being in a Russian death metal band, but being the front person who is all of the above is commendable, to say the least. --Jason

Please tell us a bit about Merlin . . .
Well, Merlin was formed in 1992 by a unique female vocalist and bassist Mary Abaza and one of the best Russian guitarist Alex Ioffe. After a long search they met Nick Byckoff - the drummer they dreamed of. Their first demo Welcome to Hell was played in death/thrash style but three months later they released the second death/grind one. However, their third demo Prisoner of Death (1994) appeared the most well known. It was reviewed in several Russian authoritative fan zines and got a positive appreciation. Since their first live (show) in 1992 Merlin have been known as the most aggressive and brutal death metal band in Russia and after their 'Deathkoteque' had been released they were called leaders of Russian death metal. A lot of their songs were included in compilations such as Thrash Your Mother, Deathtalker, Russian Metal Ballads, etc. and they take part in all considerable festivals around Moscow and some other Russian towns.

It's somewhat unusual (and thrilling!) to see/hear a woman sing brutal death metal. How did that come about?
I have liked heavy music since I was a child. I've never heard any kind of pops, disco, new wave, etc. This music is not mine. I grew up listening to BLACK SABBATH and DEEP PURPLE. Then JUDAS PRIEST and MANOWAR. And SLAYER. I was crazy about them. All that can be done in these styles is already done. You can't do something new and cool playing this music, you can only repeat these monsters. I think death metal is the only kind of heavy music without clichés: a sort of avant-garde. I can do all I like to and nobody is going to say that I'm doing that a wrong way; there just isn't a right way yet. Why brutal death? I like the way it sounds - fast and heavy. And I like the way my voice sounds... I've never heard any female sing like this.

Do you encounter many problems being a female in such a male-oriented scene?
No, I don't have any problem because of being a female. I can say even that it helps me a lot.

What's it like in Russia these days? I'm probably ignorant, but I'm always amazed that people are able to get online from there.
Well, we've got a great progress since communists fail.

Is there any particular philosophy you or your band espouses (nihilism, anarchy, socialism etc.)?
It is hard to say. We have few anti-Communist songs but most of my lyrics is about maniacs. It is very interesting for me the psychology of evil, what is the motivation, what is the reason etc.

Do you get to play many shows?
Well, we play once or twice a month in Moscow and sometimes we visit some other towns. We are not able to play often since all of us have a job.

Do you ever think of leaving Russia, or are you as attached to your homeland as many of us are?
I've never considered leaving Russia forever, but it would be interesting to play abroad.

Is it hard to get equipment, recording time there? I'd imagine the prices are somewhat inflated due to the distance some things are imported.
You can get any equipment you want these days. You can buy a pretty good Korean guitar for $400 and you can buy an expensive one. The problem is that you can't make any money on playing and you have to get another job. But there is no posers in Russian metal scene: all of them give up music very soon.

Do you use any Sovtek distortion boxes?
Alex uses Digitech RP10.

I don't usually interview a band that I know so little about. Please feel free to add anything you want to this interview, and give us any closing comments you might have. Please forgive my Yankee imperialist ignorance . . .
Well, I think this is all.
Bye then and thanks a lot,