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COVID-19 graphic provided by CDC | By David Browne, Rolling Stone | Since his old metal band broke up five years ago, guitarist Li Heng Chan hadn’t given the project much thought. But last week, he began receiving texts and emails from family, friends, and one of his former bandmates. “They were saying, ‘Your band is in the news!’ ” Chan says. “Everyone’s like, ‘What’s going on?’ ”

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to the stage … Omicron!

On Nov. 26, the World Health Organization announced the name of the latest Covid-19 variant. Although it was chosen for being the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet, the designation struck a chord with at least one musician, drummer Jon Wurster of Superchunk, Bob Mould, and Mountain Goats renown: “Omicron sounds like a progressive metal band that’s never headlined,” he tweeted two days later.

It turns out Wurster wasn’t far off. Between 2014 and 2016, Omicron was indeed the name of an underground prog-metal band based in Hong Kong. The quartet — Chan, keyboardist Tyler Yeung, drummer Alex Bedwell, and synth-guitarist Adam Robertshaw — only played a handful of gigs and weren’t around long enough to release an album (more on that later). But thanks to a macabre coincidence, Omicron are suddenly getting some of the attention they missed out on during their existence. “Of all the possible words you could use for designating a virus, you choose Omicron,” says Chan with a laugh. “Whether for the right or wrong reasons, we’ve been getting clicks. It’s been a lot to process.”

“I have honestly never heard progressive metal, as far as I know, but it’s a term I’ve heard [the Mountain Goats’] John Darnielle use a few times,” Wurster tells Rolling Stone. “It just seemed reasonable, at least in my mind, that there could, or should be, a progressive metal band called Omicron.”
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