Hozier – Unreal Unearth
Hozier exploded onto the scene in 2014 with the single Take Me to Church, which proved a chart smash. His debut album earned a rapturous response from fans and critics alike, spawning several more successful singles. The artist’s second record Wasteland Baby, released in 2019, may not have been quite such a smash but certainly didn’t fall under the radar. After a four-year absence, Hozier returns with Unreal Unearth, a further mix of blues, rock and soul in a blend he seems born to create, preceded by the EP Eat Your Young released in March to whet fan’s appetites.
This is a hugely ambitious album, spanning 16 tracks and encompassing an array of genres, as he has on his previous records. It shows signs of an artist proactively looking to evolve and expand his oeuvre, making for a constantly engaging and rewarding listening experience.
The two-part De Selby immediately catches our attention with a luscious acoustic opening, moving into gorgeous soft vocals with an orchestral backdrop. Most impressively, the second half sees the sound expand further with singing in Gaelic.
While there is a sense of darkness and uncertainty throughout, the shifting gears never threaten to derail the album. Francesca is one of the heaviest numbers Hozier has put out to date, developing some of the more blues-based elements of his previous work. Again, his vocals are placed at the forefront, and even nearly a decade on from his debut, it is hard not to be taken aback by the power and range of his voice.
Lead single Eat Your Young is one of the poppier moments, and is inspired by Dante’s Inferno, which appears to be a theme across several of the tracks. For its upbeat tempo, the lyrics are haunting, speaking of doomed lovers trying to escape hell.
Damage Gets Done is an astounding duet with American singer-songwriter Brandi Carlisle, the pair in perfect harmony, a natural fit for one another. This is one of the most spellbinding tracks, a departure from some of the other songs but still at home.
Sons of Nyx, an almost entirely orchestral, instrumental number, has an almost cinematic quality to it, recalling Hozier’s collaboration with Bear McCrary on God of War Ragnarök, again an unexpected direction but fully accomplished, and it will be intriguing to see if this is an area he expands on further in future. It is one of the most beautiful things he has produced to date but still has a darkness lurking underneath.
Unknown shows Hozier’s prowess as a guitarist, with a sumptuous extended opening riff, structured largely around the guitar and vocals, building into a soaring climax. This encapsulates the overarching sound of the record and the deft balance of light and dark, shifting subtlety between styles with ease.
Unreal Unearth is a tour de force from one of Ireland’s premier musicians – and is well worth the wait. It is a record full of grandeur, magnifying sounds hinted at in his earlier releases, both more expansive but not short of quieter, intimate moments, and brimming with beauty and remorse. It is the work of an artist beyond his years and one who is still evolving. Never quite sticking to a particular genre, this is a record that will reward multiple listens with its many layers and textures to mull over and be lost in.
Image: Barry McCall
Unreal Unearth is released on 18th August 2023. For further information or to order the album visit Hozier’s website here.
Watch the video for the single De Selby (Part 2) here: