New Hozier Album Raises Hell for Fresh Sounds

By Kayla Ross, Back Page Editor

I wouldn’t know where to start. I’ve had no love like I do for this album. Unreal Unearth is Irish musician Hozier’s third album, which debuted at No.1 on U.K. charts after his four-year break from making new music. 

Both of the singer’s previous albums, Hozier and Wasteland, Baby!, explore themes of Roman Catholic religious trauma. In Unreal Unearth, Hozier makes his statement via a whole new wave of music rooted in the haunting effects of hell. Hozier told Rolling Stone that the inspiration for this album was the nine circles of hell illustrated in Dante’s Inferno. 

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In different songs, Hozier tells a story about different circles of hell. The lead single from this album, “Eat Your Young,” immediately started trending in March on TikTok with its sensual lyrics and desperate tune. This song explores the third circle of hell – gluttony – with lyrics about taking advantage of youth and passion. Hozier sings in the opening lines to this hit, “I’m starving, darling / Let me put my lips to something / Let me wrap my teeth around the world.”  

The sound of this album is distinctively Hozier, but he sounds more authentic, passionate and comfortable than he has since his first hit, “Take Me to Church.” Hozier’s connections to his Irish roots shine through in the intonation of his voice, particularly in “De Selby (Part 1),” in which Hozier sings in Irish in the last verse. In a “Behind The Song” video posted to his YouTube channel, he explains that the main theme of the verses means, “Although you’re bright and light, you arrive to me like nightfall, you come like nightfall.” 

Many other fans and I were arguably most excited about Hozier’s much-anticipated collaboration with fellow folk musician Brandi Carlile. Carlile and Hozier have performed Hozier’s “Work Song” together several times, but their song “Damage Gets Done” from Unreal Unearth is a perfect blend of their two musical styles and cutting lyrics. This is a painful song about two people growing up and out of love and realizing the love they have for each other is not enough for them to be fulfilled with their lives: “One time we would want for nothin’ / We knew what our love was worth / Now we’re always missin’ somethin’ / I miss when we did not need much.”

This album is a Hozier renaissance. He has moved past his wistful lullabies and is finding a soulful, rock sound that we have only had tastes of in songs like “Jackie and Wilson” and “Nina Cried Power.” 

However, Hozier does give us one tortured love song reminiscent of his earliest work. “Unknown / Nth” is the best song on this album. He sings, “You know the distance never made a difference to me / I swam a lake of fire / I’d have walked across the floor of any sea / Ignored the vastness between all that can be seen / And all that we believe / So I thought you were like an angel to me.” This song has lyrics that make calls to another song on this album, “All Things End,” and in doing that, I think he is saying that his lover is his end. He would walk through hell to be with his lover, but he also realizes that his lover is his personal hell. 

Unreal Unearth is avant-garde for Hozier. He is proving that his storytelling and imagery are unmatched in the songwriting of current music. I give this album a 9/10. The sound is enthralling because of the variation in each and every song, and there are philosophical lessons to be learned after just one listen.