The Protomen are an American rock band who started their career composing concept albums loosely based on the video game series Mega Man. Their stage names are largely references to pop culture films, song titles, and fictional characters. The group members refer to themselves as storytellers, creating a "rock and roll fable".
The band is composed mostly of MTSU recording program graduates, and originated in order to meet class deadlines and the need to record for their grades. Their first live performance was in April 2004. Most of the band had graduated and moved to Nashville by 2005.
In a 2009 interview, lead vocalist Panther stated, "We basically gathered up all of our good friends from the local rock bands of Murfreesboro, tied ourselves together, and tried to walk. And somehow it worked. At the time, we noticed a void in rock and roll. A hole that could only really be filled with grown men and women painting up like robots and playing some fierce and furious rock music based on a 1980s video game. We were fairly certain no one else was going to fill that hole. But, by God, it's filled now. You can thank us later."
The band has strong ties to the Murfreesboro and Nashville independent music scene, and some members perform with several bands.
In the band's first album, Dr. Wily is represented as an Orwellian ruler over a dystopic city, full of humans who are too scared to stand up to his control. Dr. Light creates a "perfect man, an unbeatable machine", Proto Man, to fight to free the city, but Proto Man is destroyed by the overwhelming power of Wily's armies. Defeated and despairing, Dr. Light then creates a second son, Mega Man, whom he attempts to dissuade from battle. Mega Man runs away from home and confronts his brother in an apocalyptic concluding battle. The album has been described by the band as "the sound of the end of the world" and straddles the line between chiptune and hard rock, with heavier focus on distorted 8-bit synthesizers and electronic instrumentation.
Band member Commander has stated that the album "was made specifically to go against everything our recording teachers and fellow students were trying to feed us about making everything sound pristine and 'perfect.'". The album was recorded over two years in various Murfreesboro studios, using analog rather than digital production techniques. "Due Vendetta", the group's first recorded track, was completed in April 2003. The album was produced by then-Protomen member Heath Who Hath No Name.
For the band's second album the group, working with Meat Loaf producer Alan Shacklock, devised a prequel storyline to their first album. The second act details the rise of Albert Wily to power, the rivalry between himself and Thomas Light, and the tragic events which brought the City under Wily's control. The band stated that Act II was designed to sound cleaner, reflecting a time "before the bomb dropped". Accordingly, the second album reflects a much broader range of musical styles and more lyrical instrumentation, embracing references from Ennio Morricone to Bruce Springsteen to Shacklock's own Babe Ruth. The album was mastered by Richard Dodd, a Grammy-winning recording engineer.