economy

Omicron—the Belgian metal band—makes the best of its name

Omicron—the Belgian metal band—makes the best of its name

When Philippe Delhaute and Ignace Casier were working out the guitar parts for some new songs last week, they didn’t expect their band’s name to raise quite so many eyebrows. “I went to the store wearing our band T-shirt and people were looking at me really weirdly, Mr. Delhaute recalls. “But we have been here for six years now and have nothing to do with Covid whatsoever. Meet Omicron. Not the coronavirus variant but the Belgian death metal band, who say that the only thing contagious about them is their music. The four-piece band has already begun making a name in their home country, thrashing their guitars and singing about alien invasions and the mysteries of human evolution, their favorite themes. Soon they will begin recording their new album, “Entropic Entity, and, if the Covid-19 pandemic eases up, play some shows. But first they have to figure out how to handle the unexpected flurry of publicity that came when the World Health Organization decided to name the new virus strain after the same letter of the Greek alphabet they chose for their band name, bypassing Nu and Xi. Getting the balance right has been difficult. At first the band appeared apologetic. “While we can’t help it that the WHO decided to skip two letters to get to the letter omicron, we want to express again our support for all the victims, the people working in the medical sector and all the sacrifices everyone continuously makes to battle this virus. Stay safe everybody! the band wrote on its Facebook page. That might not have been quite metal enough, however. A beat later they struck a more defiant note: “For the record, our band name is based on the Omicron galaxy system and not on the current Omicron Covid strain. Messrs. Delhaute and Casier said that while they were thrilled by a surge of traffic to their YouTube page, they acknowledged it was a delicate situation to manage. “It’s like, OK guys, let’s be careful. We don’t want to profit from anyone suffering, you know, said Mr. Delhaute, who ties his long hair back in a ponytail. “But if people are going to our sites because they’re looking up Omicron and they think, ‘Hey, the music is cool, we subscribe,’ then that’s cool. Some larger enterprises have been similarly caught out by the pandemic, at least at first. Sales of Corona beer were widely predicted to plummet when the coronavirus slammed into the U.S. early last year. But by the end of 2020, its owner, Constellation Brands Inc., found sales had held up. It even launched a Corona-branded hard seltzer drink that it said was a hit. Delta Air Lines had something of a scare when it ended up sharing its name with a highly transmissible strain linked to a deadly new surge. “We just call it the variant, the company’s chief executive, Ed Bastian, said at the time. Originally named after a crop-dusting operation in the Mississippi Delta, the airline didn’t see a significant fall in bookings compared with its competitors and has since recorded two consecutive quarters of profits—its first since the pandemic began. Some businesses have embraced the publicity when their name turned up among variants. Omicron Repro, a small-town print shop in Canterbury, England, sees it as a chance to bag some free advertising—or at least an opportunity to get customers to remember how to spell its name. Owner Mark Fawcett-Jones and director Dave Loveridge ordered a pair of bright yellow hazmat suits off Amazon to wear at the store and make the most of the situation. “They were supposed to be for a networking event, but we thought we might as well take a photo of ourselves wearing them at the shop and it took off, Mr. Fawcett-Jones said. “It’s just a bit tongue-in-cheek really, he added. “But it’s easier to read out our email address on the phone now. People know how to spell it. We had all sorts of trouble before. Omicron, the band, whose name Mr. Delhaute chose five years ago, is pondering how it might be able turn the unexpected celebrity into sustainable success. Local metal publications in Belgium have already written about the coincidence over the group’s name, as have Vice and international music sites such as Metal Injection. There was a mention on CBS’s “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The band hopes to get further attention after recording a track next week for Face Your Underground, an annual compilation of Belgian metal bands. The CD runs the gamut of death metal styles, from down-tuned chugging to the faster-tempoed flailing of black metal and the chaotic breakdowns that characterize symphonic deathcore. Omicron is wary of being treated as a novelty, though. Mr. Casier says members are focused on ensuring their new album is as good as it can be. “We don’t want to rush it, he said. “The idea, roughly, is to make a concept album about an alien invasion. Like how ancient civilizations, for example, the Sumerians or the Egyptians, used to worship gods like Isis or whatever, and that there’s a theory that those gods were actually aliens who came to Earth. “With metal you can go into this fantasy world and just make it kind of brutal and dark, Mr. Casier said. “We’re still designing a new logo, still discussing what we’re going to do for an album cover—stuff like that, Mr. Delhaute said. “We need to be a little bit careful. If all goes well, they expect to have nine or so songs in the can soon, enough for a 50-minute live set—assuming Omicron, the virus, will let them play. “Yeah, we’re really looking forward to it, really itching, you know? Mr. Delhaute said. “I didn’t touch my guitar for like a week because of all this, but now I need to practice. Download.

economy 2021-12-12 Livemint