Armand Melnbardis was born in Riga Latvia. His violin studies began at age 5 and he has been touring internationally since the age of 12. He was then given the opportunity to further his education at Stetson University under the violin master Dr. Alvaro Gomez. This classical background is the foundation from which his music is created. But there is something that all the classical training could not give him though, that is the ability to satisfy the metalhead that dwelled within.
This classical training also provided him with something that contributes to the unique band called Vio7. From the start, you realize that not only are you hearing an amazing rock and roller, you are hearing a musical genius who has set his sights on the world of metal.
He thought about playing the electric guitar until he saw Mark Wood in a guitar magazine. He tells me, "It was then that I realized I didn't have to play guitar". "I bought a couple of his violins and a couple others and then it went from there." "I needed more out of them so I just kept doing things in my own sort of way". "I didn't want to copy his and now it has progressed to the point where it's a completely different animal". With that, not only has he become a virtuoso on the violin, he has become a builder and designer of one of the most unique instruments to be found. Like his music, he is continuously trying to improve the instrument itself. He could have been talking about his music, but he was talking about the newest model violin when he said to me, "You think this one is pretty, wait till you see the new one!"
I am still trying to get over the current model which is featured on the album; The 7th string. The title refers to the extra string on the violin of course. The string that as Armand puts it, "Gives it the low rumbling rock tone". He has achieved his goal! Just listening to the song "Day From Hell" and the monster tone that you might think be emitting from a detuned Gibson will make your hairs stand up on the back of the neck as the realization sets in that this is Armand, his talent and this wonderful instrument that he has made!
Armand manages to bridge the gap between the many worlds of music that he has visited to reach the point where he is now. With his background you would expect to hear many different types of music on this disc and he doesn't disappoint. With a nod to the neo-classical, he starts off with "Vio Voice" which takes you from a very shready beginning that Malmsteen could only wish be produced on a guitar to a more renaissance period piece. He manages to do this with a style that always reminds you that there is a metalhead's heart beating inside. This is what makes this album so unique.
When you reach "Enter Vio" your head by this point is wondering if your ears have lost something. Your mind is wondering if there has been a musical lapse as you are sure that there is no way you could have been listening to a violin up to this point. There has to be a hidden John Petrucci in there somewhere. But no, it is all Armand and his terrific band. This tune does a little jazz bass line by Scott Queen that really is a great offset to the masterful work of Armand's violin.
What it boils down to with this album, are you a music lover? For if you are, then Vio7 is going to leave you wanting so much more. Whether he is playing a beautiful melodic piece such as "New Beginning" or using his classical training as in "Allegro", there is such a love for music that comes out in everything he plays you will be overwhelmed by the aura that his sound produces. This is not surprising as he has played with everyone from Pavarotti to Rob Rock.
I had the chance to ask him if there is a message in his music and he said: "Originally it was to show that hard rock music could be different, clean and does not require the "F" word every few minutes. That is one message and then there is, pushing the violin to the point of no return". Well Armand, you have succeeded in doing that. For a real treat and a unique listening experience, this is an album to have. I cannot wait for his next offering, from what he told me, it will only get better!!
1. Vio Voice
2. Day From Hell
4. Enter Vio
5. New Beginning
7. Red Clown
8. Love Forever