The Monitor is a concept album so grandly ambitious that I’m a little overwhelmed just trying to talk about it. That being said, it’s also up there with Hospice as one of my favorite concept albums, ever. So I will try. From where I’m sitting, the fundamental premise seems to take the American Civil War as a metaphor for a betrayal, and a break-up. The South seceded from the union, then the North declared war in pursuit of reconquest and restoration. This is the central conceit that ties the whole thing together.
The Battle of Hampton Roads is both the climactic finale to the story of this relationship, and the literal battle between the Merrimac and the Monitor, two of the very first ironclads, and the first to ever fight each other. After pounding cannon balls off their respective armor at point-blank range for hours, they both limped home with exhausted, inconclusive sighs. Can you picture a couple screaming at each other? Hurting each other? The futility of it? It’s complex, carefully crafted, and littered with excellent writing.
These are just broad strokes, there’s so much more here. Titus Andronicus–named after Shakespeare’s lone amateurish play–somehow mashed together literary intellectualism with a drunken punk rock mentality to produce something awesome in scope and utterly their own. I cannot stress it enough: Get this album. The Monitor is a masterpiece. I’ll leave you with the quote from Abraham Lincoln upon which it opens:
“From whence shall we expect the approach of danger? Shall some transatlantic giant step the earth and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe and Asia could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River, or set a track on the Blue Ridge in the trial of a thousand years. If destruction be our lot, we ourselves must be it’s author and finisher. As a nation of free men, we will live forever,
or die by suicide.”
Now that’s a metaphor.