Hozier’s latest full-length album, Unreal Unearth, released on August 18th, has him teeming with confidence which in turn allows him to effortlessly shift between the heart-wrenching and the heart-pounding over the course of sixteen tracks.
Hozier’s latest full-length album, Unreal Unearth, released on August 18th, has him teeming with confidence which in turn allows him to effortlessly shift between the heart-wrenching and the heart-pounding over the course of sixteen tracks. The tracks weave together to take us on a trip through the highs and lows of his life and the fields and caverns of Virgil’s inferno. With the album Number 1 on the Irish Charts, and three sold-out Dublin shows lined up for later this year, it’s safe to say that fans aren’t left wanting.
What we have with Unreal Unearth is a coordinated effort that succeeds on all fronts.
Whilst he has consistently been able to release catchy, heart-wrenching ballads that win over fans such as his explosive debut single ‘Take Me To Church,’ Hozier has always struggled to deliver a cohesive and consistent full-length batch of tracks on records. His previous two releases saw him occasionally sit back on his songwriting and production laurels to deliver some songs that lacked punch. Thankfully, that version of Hozier is gone, his overreliance on haunting choir vocals is nowhere to be found, and his attention to detail throughout the entirety of the album is clearly visible. What we have with Unreal Unearth is a coordinated effort that succeeds on all fronts.
A song such as ‘Francesca’ is the perfect example of the new Hozier. Its thrashing guitar-driven chorus is powerful and catchy but the track itself doesn’t wash out the rest of the album. Its loud and triumphant atmosphere is balanced delicately with quiet, soft and contemplative moments found in the transitory track ‘Son of Nyx.’ Perhaps one of the most explicit references to Dante’s Inferno, Hozier makes us feel like the soundscape of Unreal Unearth is a concentrated nectar of Dante’s poem. The song is a transition from the first half of the album to the second; it is Hozier opening up. He is bridging the path from dark to light, from hell to the realm of the living. The following track, ‘All Things End’, feels like a natural progression from this; "We didn't get it right but, love, we did our best". Hozier is finding brilliance in new beginnings and coping with the past.
Hozier is finding brilliance in new beginnings and coping with the past.
Despite the progress and changes he has made creatively, this newest album does not betray old fans. A song such as ‘All Things End’ could just have easily been a highlight on the tracklist of Wasteland, Baby!. The difference is, this time around, the tracks feel more connected to the album as a whole. For example, in ‘Abstract (Psychopomp),’ whilst singing about a past relationship, the specific imagery Hozier evokes of “the Earth from a distance” can also be interpreted through the narrative of his journey through hell.
Hesitant to brand Unreal Unearth as a complete concept album, there is a concept to be found, one of a man, gentle in spirit, working his way through life, shedding his past, not looking back, and emerging from hell. Hozier is ready to “wrap [his] teeth around the world.” By channelling the story of Dante’s journey through hell, and back out again, Hozier takes us on his own personal voyage through heartbreak, loss, and regret, but most importantly, the slow climb upwards that is personal growth.