Prog-Metal Band Omicron Address Unfortunate COVID Variant Association

"Obviously the virus isn't a positive thing, but it's generated some traffic for us"

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Nov 30, 2021

On November 26, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the name of the latest variant of the COVID-19 virus after the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet, but they unknowingly also paid homage (and gave plenty of web traffic) to a Hong Kong-formed prog-metal band.

Omicron — the project of guitarist Li Heng Chan, drummer Alex Bedwell, keyboardist Tyler Yeung and synth-guitarist Adam Robertshaw — were suddenly thrust into the spotlight. Chan told Rolling Stone that friends and family were sending texts and calling him to say that his underground band was on the news; which he thought was odd, since the group had broken up five years prior.

Interestingly, Jon Wurster (Mountain Goats, Superchunk, Bob Mould) tweeted two days after the WHO's designation that the name "sounds like a progressive metal band that's never headlined," and he happened to be precisely right. From 2014 to 2016, Omicron were indeed a prog-metal band that played a total of seven shows in Hong Kong, and we're guessing none of them were headlining sets.

"There are a lot of instrumental progressive bands, but as far as Hong Kong, we were the only one," Chan told interviewer David Browne. Inspired by the likes of Liquid Tension Experiment (an offshoot of Dream Theater), they had wanted to call the band something cosmic-themed to match their intricately tangled instrumental sound — and decided to go with the name for the 15th star in a constellation.

"It had this particular ring to it," the guitarist said of Omicron. "That was the starting point. And then we looked deeper into the word itself. Our music is loosely based on a sci-fi/space approach, and Omicron means 'small.' The idea was that our individual parts — the Omicron — contribute to the bigger picture."

The four members of Omicron are now spread out across the globe, but in 2020, they actually began collecting their old studio recordings and adding new parts to put together a belated self-titled album. Without the limitations of what they could do live with just the four of them, Chan explains that they're looking to make it sound massive.

Ahead of last week, they had planned to release the LP next summer, but now the outfit's struggling with the idea of making a return with the current state of the world.

"We were thinking, 'Should we capitalize on this? Is it too soon? Is it in bad taste?'" the musician continued. "Obviously the virus isn't a positive thing, but it's generated some traffic for us."

He added: "We don't want people thinking we're basing it off COVID; that's not what we're about."

They're considering calling themselves Omicron 2014 after the year they founded the band, at least.

Whatever their mutated-variant name is, you can listen to the quartet's newly-shared song "Overture" below.


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