Being called a "maggot" is ordinarily only tolerated in the Marines, where being likened to soft-bodied legless grub is something of a boot-camp initiation. For Slipknot fans, however, the term couldn't be more flattering.
A higher compliment couldn't be paid to 23-year-old Brandon of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, unless perhaps it was prefaced with the word "old." Brandon proudly became a maggot five years ago, when an unknown troupe of masked men took the stage on Ozzfest. The band's energy hit the audience like torrents from nine separate fireplugs, and even though most of the crowd — Brandon included — was hearing the sonic assault for the first time, few could resist the impact.
As a demonstration of his dedication, Brandon bussed it more than 160 miles to New York to meet up with roughly two dozen like-minded fanatics for the second installment of the Maggot March, a promotional get-together organized by Slipknot's street team to spread the word about the band's new album, Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses). The first Maggot March took place two years ago, on the eve of the release of the Disasterpieces DVD.
Most of the crew — all wearing red Slipknot T-shirts, some donning homemade horror masks to mimic those of their favorite members — claim their devotion stems from feeling like their own emotions are being expressed through frontman Corey Taylor's lyrics. As the group began its 15-block stampede from the Roadrunner Records offices to Pennsylvania Station, the lyrics from "Surfacing," a cut off Slipknot's 1999 self-titled debut, were chanted like a mantra.
"F--- it all! F--- this world! / F--- everything that you stand for!" they roared, dominating the sidewalk with their numbers and passion. "Don't belong! Don't exist!/ Don't give a sh--! / Don't ever judge me!"
Another popular chant stemmed from the 2001's "The Heretic Anthem." As one maggot began the call-and-response chorus with "If you're 555," the others followed with the menacing bellow "Then I'm 666." The combination of a uniformed pack of scary-masked kids equating themselves to the number of the beast while hoisting homemade signs such as "Witness the rebirth of madness" made for a jaw-dropping spectacle, and anyone caught looking received a promotional postcard about the album. Meanwhile, hardly a lamppost passed that wasn't a target for a poster.
Similar fan fervor is found in Slipknot's video for the single "Duality." Without much direction other a simple command — "Maggots, attack house!" — hundreds of fans descended upon a house the band had rented in their hometown of Des Moines, Iowa (see "Slipknot's Maggots Destroy Iowa Home"). From broken windows to gaping holes in the roof, the damage was so extensive that the "you break it, you buy it" policy was enforced, but the bandmembers don't seem to mind being new owners of an abode that barely escaped complete demolition.
"Our fans are the greatest in the world," bassist Paul Grey said. "We shot that video on the worst day ever. It was freezing, raining. ... And we had hundreds of kids who stood out there all day in the rain — not complaining, not bitching — just to be there with us."
"A lot of them were out there for six hours with no shirts on," Taylor added. "It was so insane."
Slipknot show their appreciation on the new track "Pulse of the Maggots," an ode to the lifeblood of the group. "I fight for the ones who can't fight," Taylor sings. "And if I lose, at least I tried/ ... If I have to give my life, you can have it/ We are the pulse of the maggots."
As the pulse beat down the streets of Manhattan, the scene got more chaotic with every step as random Slipknot fans off the street were swept up in the march. One maggot seemed destined to be struck by a cab or a bus as he zigzagged through traffic and shoved his placard into the vehicles' windows. Another made stops in every restaurant along the way, fast food joints and four-star establishments alike, shouting "Slipknot!" and "New album out Tuesday!" Others hung from sidewalk scaffolding for an elevated display visible to passersby at the end of the block.
Needless to say, the scene attracted bewildered looks like maggots to a piece of rotten flesh. "They're a great band, check 'em out Tuesday," proclaimed one scarlet-shirted mouthpiece to an attractive young woman in designer shades and a wrap skirt. "Eww, they look scary," she replied.
"What's a Slipknot?" asked a man on his way to catch a train at Penn Station. "What do they do?"
"They're a metal band," came the simple reply from the maggot carrying a poster with headshots of the nine members.
"Well, they look like some psychos."
Finally, toward the end of the hour-long march, one fan seemed close to converting an ordinary citizen into a newly crowned maggot. "I know about Slipknot," said the motherly figure who looked to be in her mid-40s. "They're awesome."
In a gentle, well-mannered voice, he indoctrinated his disciple about the finer points of the 'Knot, and his persuasiveness might have worked, too, had not a fellow maggot yelled, "Slipknooooottt! Yeahhhhh!" right in her face to send her running in the opposite direction.
While passion, loyalty and dedication are surely among a maggot's most prominent virtues, they still need some work in the areas of etiquette and subtlety.