Let’s cut to the chase. There’s a death metal band in Belgium that, as of last week, shares its name with a coronavirus variant. But unlike the World Health Organisation, they were “totally not” influenced by the Greek alphabet.
“Our guitarist Philippe has an unhealthy obsession with aliens and all the interstellar obscurity that comes with it,” the band told VICE World News via email. “He came up with our name because he was inspired by the Dyson sphere that had been found in the Omicron Cygni constellation.”
“And he’s never been probed, as far as he knows.”
“Having the same name as the new coronavirus variant feels like an extra responsibility we have to carry.”
The WHO has been using Greek letters in alphabetical order to name new coronavirus variants. But with the emergence last week of a troubling new strain first identified by a South African doctor, the health agency skipped the letter “Xi”, given that it’s also the last name of the Chinese president, and went straight to “Omicron”—the 15th letter in the alphabet.
“Nobody could predict that this would happen and we hope that people will see that,” Omicron, the band that is, said. “[Are] we planning to change our name? Hell no. We will not let a virus determine the way our concept should be perceived.”
A name can make or break a band (can you imagine if American hair metal band Motley Crue stuck to calling themselves Christmas?), so for the members of Omicron, learning that they now shared the same name as the new, possibly highly transmissible COVID-19 variant proved a mixed bag of emotions.
“We were a bit anxious that our name might get a negative connotation,” they said. “But we also felt it might give us the exposure much needed for bands [starting out] in a world overcrowded with musicians trying to leave their mark upon the industry.”
While response to the name overlap has only been jovial, the band are conscious of not seeming to be profiting off a global crisis.
“Having the same name as the new coronavirus variant feels like an extra responsibility we have to carry,” Omicron said. “We are still going to tread carefully here because we do not want the world to think that we are thriving on other people’s suffering.”
That Omicron was an ideal name for a metal band was first tweeted by American musician Jon Wurster. Soon after, it emerged that there was indeed a metal band named Omicron, albeit this time from Hong Kong, one that disbanded in 2016 but is now enjoying a mini-renaissance.
“Whether for the right or wrong reasons, we’ve been getting clicks,” its frontman Chan Li Heng, now based in Perth, Australia, told Rolling Stone.
With the global pandemic showing no signs of abating, the Belgian Omicron was forced to postpone the release of their debut album Entropic Entity—a “concept album” that “plays with the idea of an alien invasion and the insignificance of the human race,” according to the band. Gigs, too, have slowed.
“We are planning to play live venues but the infection numbers in Belgium are increasing again so it’s really hard at the moment to predict when that will be realistic,” they said.
Omicron, during pre-pandemic times. Photo: Omicron
While the pandemic has hit them hard the past two years, from this unfortunate coincidence, the band hope that some good will emerge.
“We hope that people looking up Omicron might stumble upon us and find a much needed outlet in our music.”
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