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Review: “Unreal Unearth” fails to recapture the magic of Hozier’s first two albums

Unreal+Unearth+was+released+on+Aug.+18.
Courtesy of Spotify
“Unreal Unearth” was released on Aug. 18.

Four years after the release of his album, “Wasteland, Baby!”, Irish singer-songwriter Hozier has returned with “Unreal Unearth.” The 16-track album reimagines the story of Dante’s “Inferno,” the first part of the 14th-century classic novel “The Divine Comedy.” With commentary on love, life, death and what comes after, “Unreal Unearth’s” subject matter is ambitious, even for an artist who has proven himself capable of weaving elaborate stories with his music.

“Unreal Unearth” starts off with a bang. The first track on the album, “De Selby (Part 1),” breaks with Hozier’s habit of opening his album with a political song, such as “Take Me to Church” or “Nina Cried Power.” Instead, Hozier opts for a soft acoustic exploration of the idea of the darkness that ends with him singing in Gaeilge.

However, this album is far from apolitical. The sixth track, “Eat Your Young,” released on March 17, criticizes capitalistic greed and overconsumption. Hozier’s class commentary is most scathing during the chorus: “Skinnin’ the children for the war drum / Puttin’ food on the table, sellin’ bombs and guns / It’s quicker and easier to eat your young.”

Brandi Carlile joins Hozier on “Damage Gets Done,” which serves as the youth’s response to “Eat Your Young.” “But I know that being reckless and young / Is not how the damage gets done.”

Hozier displays his songwriting skills with “Francesca.” It tells the story of Francesca da Rimini, a character from “Inferno,” who was condemned to the second circle of hell after having an affair with her brother-in-law. Notably, Hozier writes from the perspective of her lover, who passionately sings, “I would not change it each time / Heaven is not fit to house a love like you and I.”

While these tracks are especially strong, the same cannot be said for all the songs on the album. “To Someone From A Warm Climate (Uiscefhuaraithe),” “Butchered Tongue” and “Abstract (Psychopomp)” are all incredibly forgettable. Strong vocals and driving instrumentals are present in the strongest songs on “Unreal Unearth,” but Hozier does not utilize these nearly enough.

Even though “Unreal Unearth” is impressive in its own right, I expected more from a Hozier album. Masterful songwriting allows Hozier to delve into the depths of hell, but ultimately, lyricism alone cannot help him ascend.

 

Rating: 6.5/10

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  • E

    Emily Smith | Aug 24, 2023 at 8:09 am

    I think you need to listen again, perhaps with the lyrics at hand. Butchered Tongue is beyond gorgeous and a profound statement on the violence of colonialism and the beauty of native languages. To Someone From a Warm Climate uses a gorgeous Gaelic word to describe those things for which we don’t have a name but know intimately through how we are wired and our life experiences. You have to do some homework to truly appreciate the genius of his songwriting, rather than just listening for songs that are ready for radio. Just my opinion. I bet if you listen more and read the lyrics you will come around on some of the songs you passed over the first time.

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    • L

      Lisette Littlemeyer | Sep 12, 2023 at 11:58 pm

      I could not agree more I found both songs to be beautiful and meaningful.

      Reply