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Unearthing the genius in Hozier’s “Unreal Unearth”

The singer-songwriter genre bends in his new gloom-ridden alternative rock album
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Lyndee Pinkerton

Ten years ago, I fell in love. I was sitting in the back of my parents’ minivan, and I heard a beautiful Irishman sing about going to church. That Irishman was Andrew John Hozier-Byrne, better known as Hozier, and the euphemistic melodies of his 2013 hit, “Take Me to Church,” raised him to stardom.

Since then, Hozier has released three albums, the newest of which is entitled “Unreal Unearth,” a saga of 16 songs, released on Aug. 18. “Unreal Unearth” is brimming with Hozier’s specialties: gloom, passion and jaw-dropping vocals. Hozier takes his audience on a timely journey through love and loss — and I can’t get enough of it.

Hozier drew much of his inspiration for this album from Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno,” which details Dante’s journey through the nine circles of hell. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, he described using aspects of “Inferno” as something of a plot device, while also drawing from his own life experience during the pandemic to employ themes of love and death.

The album begins with tracks entitled “De Selby (Part 1)” and “De Selby (Part 2).” The prior brings mysticism to the forefront with light guitar plucking and lyrics steeped in lonesomeness.

Despite “Part 1” fading seamlessly into “Part 2,” the latter sees quite the tonal shift. The rhythm is upbeat, and the lyricism takes a turn for the yearn, something Hozier fans are all too familiar with.

The third track, “First Time,” is a hopeless romantic’s cup of tea and, therefore, my favorite track on the album. Hozier tells his listeners a complete love story from beginning to end. He pairs whimsical music with heart-wrenching words of true love and a natural end to a relationship.

“Eat Your Young,” the lead single from the album, is another standout. This track nearly directly references the third circle of hell, gluttony, as it uses chaotic visual imagery of the preparation of a feast. “Eat Your Young” was the title track of his EP released in March 2023. When he spoke with NPR in March about the EP, he said that the song “Eat Your Young” was a way to explore what it means to take all of the things that can be taken.

The seventh track on this album, “Damage Gets Done (feat. Brandi Carlile)” is also worth mentioning. An upbeat coming-of-age piece, the song flourishes with Carlile and Hozier’s powerful, complementary voices. It reflects on what it means to be reckless when you are young and how younger generations are often considered byproducts of a world they did not contribute to.

“First Light,” the last song on the album, represents the end of the odyssey through hell. When Hozier talked to Independent about the album, he said the song offers reconciliation and is like “seeing the sky for the first time.” The beginning of the track feels like a blissful morning — calm, slow, the start of something great — and then transitions to a feeling of biblical ecstasy with satisfyingly powerful vocals.

If it isn’t already clear, I highly recommend “Unreal Unearth.” Hozier is a master of all that makes a great artist — his lyrics are relevant and poignant, his voice is dynamic and passionate and his music is filled with grace and power. “Unreal Unearth” does not shy away from emotion, and its storytelling transcends time.

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About the Contributor
Lauren Roddis
Lauren Roddis, Arts and Entertainment Editor (fall)
Hi! My name is Lauren Roddis (she/her/hers), and I am the Arts & Entertainment section editor! I am a junior from Spokane, WA, double majoring in Communication and Political Science. I love watching movies, eating good food and exploring San Antonio! I joined the Trinitonian because I believe journalism is the perfect way to bridge my passions for politics and arts/culture through my love of writing. 

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