Every single time we at The Headbanging Moose decide to honour a woman in Black Metal in our metal chick of the month segment, we have a really hard time finding most details about that specific woman most probably due to all the secrecy, mystery and obscurity that are inherent to such distinct subgenre of heavy music. Having said that, it couldn’t have been any different with our metal lady on the month of March, as almost everything related to İlkim Oulanem is about her career in Black Metal, with very few, rare interviews and other articles being available about her personal life. However, thanks to my superior “detective” skills, I managed to find a very interesting side of our Turkish Valkyrie that might be a surprise to most people that have already had any contact with İlkim’s work in the Black Metal scene, and as any good journalist I’ll save that distinct side of our metal lady for the end of this tribute, how about that? I’m sure you’ll love both her more aggressive and infernal Black Metal side, and her more recent endeavours in music.
Born in the year of 1989 in Ankara, Turkey’s cosmopolitan capital, sitting in the country’s central Anatolia region, İlkim began her career in Black Metal around 2005, when she formed a pure Black Metal band called Messershmit in Ankara. After performing as a vocalist and bassist for Messershmit until 2008, with whom she recorded a split album titled Split Way of Life in 2005 together with Turkish Black Metal band Satanic Verses, as well as an unlisted demo entitled Beyond the Wall of Sleep, İlkim formed her own one-woman Black Metal project self-titled İlkim Oulanem back in 2008, recording all vocals and instruments (and being also responsible for all lyrics) in all of her releases under the now defunct project. In addition, if you’re not familiar with the music by İlkim Oulanem, let me tell you that her sound suffered a few changes through the years, evolving from a raw Black Metal sonority to what can be called Melodic Black Metal or even Black n’ Roll.
As the one-woman band İlkim Oulanem (which you might also find under the name İlkim2), she released the two-track demo The Alarm, in 2005, gathering considerable interest from critics and fans in her homeland (which led her to tour around İstanbul, Gaziantep and Eskişehir), the EP Iblisbilim, in 2009, and her only full-length opus Girdap, in 2011, not to mention the split albums Pentagram, Legions of the Black Ice Fires, Unholy Culture and Sixth Hell of the East IV, all released in 2009, and BPMTh and International Black Scene Vol.1, both from 2010, with some amazing underground bands such as Storm of Darkness, Lux Serpent of Eden, Oculus Sathanas, Solus, Diabolis Interriym, Sirannon, Moderix and Ambient Fabric, among others. Hence, if you want to have a very good taste of the rawness and obscurity flowing from her music under her İlkim Oulanem moniker, you can listen to songs like Asil Varoluş, Hey Kukla and İblisbilim, all sung in her mother tongue Turkish, by the way, and always about controversial topics such as war and destruction.
Apart from her work with İlkim Oulanem, our talented metaller has also been involved with a band named Karabudun (albeit there’s nothing from this band available anywhere online), played drums for Mexican Black Metal band Demonic Forest in 2008, participated as a guest drummer in the 2009 demo titled 191919…, by Turkish all-female Death/Black Metal band Ancestry (previously known as War Ancestry), and was a guest vocalist and lyricist in the song Screams of Lost Horrors, from the 2010 album The Dark… the Withered…, by Colombian Depressive Black Metal band Asbel. Furthermore, after the end of her one-woman Black Metal project, she started playing pop and rock music under the name İlkim, but the only material you’ll find anywhere from that project is the official video for a song titled Melekler Hatırına.
Highly influenced by underground Black Metal, Death Metal and Grindcore bands, with Immortal being one of her biggest idols in extreme music, İlkim sees (or at least used to see) Black Metal as more than just music, being an essential part of her life it doesn’t matter if she’s simply walking down a street or drinking a cup of coffee. When asked about the Norwegian Black Metal scene and all the events that took place in the 90’s involving the infamous members of Mayhem and Burzum, she said that although she considers Norway the birthplace and a great nation for Black Metal, you can be a successful Black Metal musician anywhere in the world despite your age, sex or anything else, complementing by saying she doesn’t like to label different strands of Black Metal such as National Socialist Black Metal, Christian Black Metal (also known as Unblack Metal) or Anti-Human Black Metal, saying that for her there’s only one type of Black Metal, period. Moreover, she also mentioned in one of her interviews that she considers the Satanic imagery commonly used by Black Metal bands as a metaphor for individualism and personal freedom as the best option indeed, much better than any God imagery.
As a one-woman Black Metal band in a country like Turkey, where extreme music is the underground of the underground, İlkim said the Turkish metal scene is very active and robust despite all the hassles that the Turkish society might impose to the musicians from the scene, also saying there’s a lot of room for creativity and that there are several underground venues where bands share their expertise, their stories and music. Regarding her writing process, İlkim mentioned that she doesn’t follow a strict or structured process to compose her music and write her lyrics, as everything comes straight from her heart and personal experiences and struggles, complementing by mentioning that although she has already used and consumed alcohol, cigarettes and even drugs in her life, she enjoys writing and recording her songs with a clean mind and a healthy body, without any external substances impacting her train of though.
Last but not least, as mentioned in the beginning of this tribute, there’s a very distinguished side of İlkim that I’m sure most people know nothing about, especially due to her “departure” from the Black Metal world back in 2011. As a matter of fact, while she was still playing Black Metal, İlkim mentioned in an interview that she loved listening to underground Black Metal and classical music, and it’s classical music what might have influenced her the most in her decision to step away from extreme music and venture through the realms of rock and pop music. However, even that pop period of İlkim seems a little shady, with nothing truly solid happening from 2011 until more recent years, and after searching and searching online for more information on her current career it was with great surprise that I found out İlkim is now known as İlkim Yılmaz, a music director and the chief orchestral conductor for Bilintur Women’s Chamber Orchestra and Muzed Music Teachers’ Orchestra during the 2019-2020 season. Unless she has an identical twin, a clone or there’s someone out there that looks exactly like her and uses her exact same name, our underground black metaller became a classical musician. Interesting, isn’t it?
If İlkim Yılmaz is indeed our İlkim Oulanem, and I’m pretty sure she is, she graduated from the Department of Composition and Music Theory at Başkent University State Conservatory in 2017 with High Honor Degree and Secondary Degree, continuing her studies between 2017 and 2019 with the distinguished conductor Işın Metin. In addition, during her bachelor degree, she attended Burak Tüzün and Rengim Gökmen’s lessons at Hacettepe University Ankara State Conservatory between 2015 and 2017 as a guest, also conducting during that same period the youth chamber orchestra as a guest conductor. Furthermore, right after her graduation in 2017, İlkim became the assistant conductor for the Middle East Technical University Fine Arts Ensemble Choir, and in the spring of 2018 she served as the music director and conductor for the Middle East Technical University Fine Arts Orchestra, performing four concerts with them, three of which at the famous METU Kemal Kurdaş Hall. There are several other concerts, workshops and events she has already participated through the years in the classical and orchestral music scene in Turkey (and you can always know more about her work and events by following her on Facebook), and perhaps that’s exactly where she should be in spite of her undeniable contribution to Black Metal in Turkey. I’m quite sure she’s not ashamed of her past as a metalhead, and that deep inside her heart she still nurtures a great passion for Black Metal. And who knows, maybe one day İlkim Oulanem will arise from the ashes like a Black Metal phoenix for our total delight, right?