Prometheus Omega is an icelandic art rock band formed in Vogar during the early 20th century, and has been having a growing number of revolving members ever since. While majority of the members hide behind aliases, the most consistent member is their manager Shartmaster Yu. While having not released any recorded music for most of the 20th century, the band developed a cult following due to their highly intense live performances in various elusive locations around the world. Rooted at first in improvisational Icelandic folk music, the band began to gravitate to a variety of other musical styles as time passed, all while retaining their emphasis on improvisation and experimental composition. Their music covered elements of rock, electronica, jazz and 20th century classical music, ranging from upbeat synth-driven hits reminiscent of New Wave music and punk-influenced programmed microsongs to punishing extreme metal tones and sparse improvisational solo piano compositions, often incorporating highly technical and unorthodox playing, instrumentation and recording techniques. In the early 1980s, their widespread yet clandestine underground cult following was established, though they were rarely a topic for conversation due to the highly exclusive nature of their music.
The original formation of Prometheus Omega is quite unknown to many, though some speculate that the idea came to central founder Shartmaster Yu in a dream. It was written in an old Promegian text that Shartmaster Yu saw a vision of himself in The Land of Penile Undulation, and it is from there he got inspired to write music to recreate the experience he had in that dream.
The Beginnings Edit
The reputation of Prometheus Omega was built mainly in their travels around Europe in the 1930s, after they have spent most of the 1920s playing extensively in clandestine gatherings in Iceland. Prometheus Omega was intended to be a collective unit with a constantly changing line-up of members, with Shartmaster Yu at its core as the manager of the band. A most notable event was the Wankien Open Air in Austria of 1934, where Prometheus Omega performed a very early rendition of 25. öld hafði títan strák frá leyndarmál exoskeleton, which was an hour and forty-six minutes of improvisational folk music detailing the science fiction story of a boy with a mechanical skeleton. This very first rendition was performed by a three-piece, vocal duties being performed by the still current vocalist Stage 4 Testicular Cancer while guitar and percussion were handled by two unknown members from an unnamed Austrian blues ensemble. 25. öld hafði títan strák frá leyndarmál exoskeleton was received with critical acclaim by attendants of Wankien Open Air, which led to Prometheus Omega performing this piece for the festival for every subsequent year until 1954 when the festival was abruptly put to a stop by the Austrian government for ‘cultivating negative behaviour and ideologies’. Every year that the piece was performed, it would have undergone a variety of transformations with new members being added and removed from the band as time passed. The most notable variant of 25. öld hafði títan strák frá leyndarmál exoskeleton was performed in 1945 by Stage 4 Testicular Cancer on guttural ambient vocals, Funginal Infection on bass, Shitstorm Generator on drums, Food AIDs on saxophone and oboe, Whoricardo Pleasuretrius on harpsichord and Yoko Ono on lead vocals. The piece was 2 hours long and featured a repeating motif of intense harpsichord shredding over a 17/16 drumbeat that got progressively more chaotic and violent, with the other instruments layering atop it to create a cacophonous explosion. Yoko Ono in particular, at 10 years of age, was noted by observers to be likened to a little midget spirit howling in the burning winds of a winter solstice. She eventually went on to have quite an inspiring music career of her own.
There was an era of inactivity where Prometheus Omega was nearly forgotten about. They have made small appearances throughout very obscure jazz clubs and folk music gatherings throughout the early 1960s, though they have been mostly known to play sets halfway and then proceed to flee from the stage in a fashion that is most bewildering. Edging closer to the 1970s, it seemed like they almost vanished off the face of the planet.
However, in 1978, they made an appearance in Rock in Orgasm in England, a small-scale imitation of the more famous Rock in Opposition festival. Influenced by the explosion of progressive rock at that time period, Prometheus Promega performed a set of 6 songs. Their setlist (as according to vague scribbles on a napkin provided by Janice Cunningham - creator of the Rock in Orgasm festival and esteemed multi-instrumentalist for the UK-based progressive rock band Violent Dwarves):
- Saga um kynlíf
- Kinks í skít innöndunartæki
- Kynsjúkdóma sterar
- Hvað falleg d (the last word here was smudged)
- 25. öld hafði títan strák frá leyndarmál exoskeleton 2
- Fvck falsa framsækin hljómsveitir rokk eru bani alheimsins
The opening piece was a cacophonous two-minute drum solo by Shitstorm Generator. The acoustic part of his instrumentation only consisted of two 20” x 18” kick drums, a 15” x 11” marching snare drum and a 4.7” cowbell. The more interesting part of his instrumentation was the electronic part of it, an analog synthesiser of an unknown brand that was strangely wired to different parts of the drummer’s body. The main basis of his rhythm involved complex patterns alternating between the kick and snare at what appeared to be random, with the cowbell and pre-programmed synth noises interjecting at whenever he twitched a certain part of his body. This style of drumming is continued and expanded on in the band’s later work as well.
As Shitstorm Generator led Saga um kynlíf into an ending of quieting triplets on the kick drums, Kinks í skít innöndunartæki was introduced by Stage 4 Testicular Cancer’s signature ear-splitting gutturals and the lo-fi crunch of Funginal Infection’s rumbling bass work. The piece was an odyssey in the style of progressive rock, hitting just shy of 11 minutes. It bore various similarities to UK progressive rock bands such as Yes, Gentle Giant and King Crimson, though it was still considered a highly forward-thinking performance due to the unique vocal style of Stage 4 Testicular Cancer, being highly atonal and drone-like, almost reminiscent of the growling prevalent in death metal music that was yet to come. Furthermore, Funginal Infection’s bass work was the main focal point of the piece, constantly shifting and improvising around and against a hypnotic ⅞ + ⅜ + 9/8 rhythmic motif laid down by Shitstorm Generator on the snare. It also featured some playfully sparse melodies that went in a sort of musical tennis between Shartmaster Yu’s psychedelic guitar work and the classically-inclined Moog stabbings of Whoricardo Pleasuretrius.
The next few pieces continued in this intricate style which provided much inspiration for subsequent developments in music such as post-rock and darkwave. Occasionally, Shartmaster Yu would throw in a guitar solo in a highly unorthodox style that seemed to involve him smashing his knuckles onto a series of frets. It created a sound that was highly percussive and cloudy. Music critics dubbed the style of playing as ‘sharting’, and it was copied extensively by many other progressive rock bands in live improvisational performances. Robert Fripp of King Crimson was noted in 1979 to have tried sharting onstage, though he failed quite immensely and caused the band to play disjointedly for the rest of their set. He later mentioned in an interview that sharting was too advanced even for a visionary like himself. Prometheus Omega, on the other hand, have continued to advance the technique of sharting in many of their later compositions.
Following Rock In Orgasm, Prometheus Omega toured around western Europe in 1979 with like-minded bands such as the above-mentioned Violent Dwarves, the jazz-influenced ensemble Queen Scarlet, the symphonic art rockers No and eclectic one-man act Mark Youngmeadow. This was known as the Tour of Mystery, though no official name was really plastered anywhere. On a mid-tour stop within the UK, Prometheus Omega began to push their music to much faster and more violent territory, inspired by the social unrest that was present in Britain at the time. This led to the very first incarnation of the speedy Ch4n, þú got stjórnað. It was said that this track led to the formation of several proto-grindcore bands who were inspired by the level of ferocity that it pioneered.