Back in 2007, I visited my friends in Ukraine. In Kyiv, I have a dear and close friend Yuri. He, in turn, had a close friend from his youth who was a highest cleric in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Archimandrite of the Holy Trinity Dukonsky Monastery, Father Mihhail.
Guided by Yuri Bespalov and Father Mihhail, I took a cultural journey to the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra Monastery. Yuri wanted to show me something deeply meaningful and valuable about Ukraine and Kyiv.
Father Mihhail naturally had access to the cloistered parts of the monastery where ordinary people were not allowed. I received an extensive tour through the tunnels and sacred sites. I won’t go into the details, but what I saw and experienced shook me profoundly – it was a culture shock. However, I only realized this much later, years afterward.
Father Mihhail (Archimandrite Mikhail, rector of the Holy Trinity Dukonsky Monastery of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church). Painted by Alexander Dzharty
As a lifelong rocker and committed atheist, I had never delved deeply into religious matters. Though I’ve always been keen on history, including the history of various religions, this experience added a new dimension to my understanding. It rattled me to the core.
After returning home, and in the depths of a dark Estonian winter – I live in nature – I revisited the whole experience, and the emotions came flooding back. I listened to dozens of recordings, Orthodox liturgies, choral pieces, and more. I envisioned channeling all this into a form that would make the sacred music resonate in today’s musical culture. The idea was to incorporate liturgies and weave them into a new, original creative journey that would meld the stunning sound of Orthodox choral music with rock, riffs, and the interpretive freedom of progressive rock.
Through Yuri’s initiative and recommendation, I was joined by a guitar talent from Mykolaiv, Ukraine – Gennadiy Grimov. Gennadiy visited me in my home studio in Estonia, where we recorded the first demos. We became great friends. Despite being a superb guitarist, Gennadiy makes his living as a furniture craftsman.
Raul Vaigla is a legendary Estonian bass virtuoso, and Andrus Lillepea is an equally legendary drummer and it was a great honor to have such top-tier musicians come on board with the project right away.
In fusing my homelands Nordic vibe with Orthodox forms and sounds, the project was christened NORTHODOXIAN. A conceptual album was the result.
NORTHODOXIAN is a musical journey, an adventure. There’s nothing religious about it. Despite my strong support for Ukraine and my utter disdain for what Russia represents today, this project is not politically charged. However, the last two tracks, “Time of Hope” and especially “A Hero,” were deeply influenced by war—Gena recorded his guitar parts in Mykolaiv while directly under rocket attacks.
From the beginning, we’ve aimed to explore what can be musically achieved by blending such divergent worlds. This fusion has produced a powerful musical outcome. If it seems too radical, we are just as happy if it simply leaves you anything but indifferent. Because that is what matters most. Enjoy the listen!
writer and producer of Northodoxian
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