When Bray-native Andrew Hozier-Byrne first arrived on the music scene with his chart-topping “Take Me to Church” in 2013, the whole world watched with bated breath, waiting to see what the Irishman would give us next.
Five years after the enormous success of his self-titled debut album, Hozier put out a sophomore album, ‘Wasteland, Baby!’ Although highly anticipated, the album received a mixed response: fans generally thought it grand, while critics remained unimpressed, wondering if he could ever top the success of his first single.
With the release of his third album, ‘Unreal Unearth,’ Hozier has cemented himself as one of the most considerable forces in the industry, blending blues and soul into a curious amalgam of Celtic tradition and modern folk. With the Irish Examiner calling the album his “finest record yet” and having reached number one in Ireland, Hozier has outdone himself.
Loosely inspired by Dante’s Inferno and traditional Irish folklore and poetry, Hozier leads listeners through his own personal journey through hell with a 16-track odyssey.
Track by Track Breakdown:
De Selby (Part 1):
An ambitious opening, the melancholy chords mixed with Hozier’s high-register vocals create a tranquil atmosphere. He transitions to an Irish lament, singing, “Is claochlú an ealaín. Is ealaín dubh í.” This chilling choral chant translates to “Art is a transformation. It is a dark art.” This transition is a perfect segue…
De Selby (Part 2):
…to the second part of the song, intertwining darkness and love. The second part is much more “Hozier-like,” giving listeners a rock and classical music mini-orchestra. One of my favorite songs on the album, it creates a fascinating juxtaposition with part 1.
Referencing the River Lethe, one of the five rivers in Hades’ underworld, Hozier uses this as a metaphor for the loss of love. It is also known as the “river of forgetfulness” and is eloquently used to encapsulate pain and heartbreak. All in all, this one was unforgettable.
“My life was a storm since I was born. How could I feel any hurricane?” This quiet rock ballad is sure to be a fan favorite. A progression of doom chords and chants ends the song, which (strangely) works for this folk song.
I, Carrion (Icarian):
I genuinely love the mention of Greek mythology in this song. “If these heights should bring me fall, let me be your own.” Just as Icarus dismissed warnings about flying too close to the sun, Hozier shows similar disregard in the face of love. This chart feels like a calm after the storm of ‘Francesca,’ and I love it.
Eat Your Young:
This politicized song, released on St. Patrick’s Day, is an excellent call out of corporate greed, war, and climate change and holds a similar consciousness reminiscent of Hozier’s earliest works.
Damage Gets Done (ft. Brandi Carlile):
This album has lots of co-writers, but it works. The two singers have great vocals that complement each other perfectly, giving the album something a little more mainstream.
Who We Are:
This song has to be my favorite on the album. Starting with a slow build-up, Hozier’s gorgeous vocals truly shine through here. It’s about the terrifying reality of humanity and how to sit with that. Truly a masterpiece.
Son of Nyx:
Another reference to Greek mythology! Nyx is the goddess of darkness and the daughter of chaos. This song, featuring the Budapest Festival Orchestra, has no lyrics, which gives it a feeling of never-ending space and time. It is eerie, impactful, and beautiful.
All Things End:
Again, this song gives us a genre mix with a gospel feel. A tragic piece with an even sadder ending, the lyrics give us a profound glimpse into the end of a relationship and the rebuilding of ourselves.
To Someone From A Warm Climate (Uisce Fhuaraithe):
Yes, you read that right. This song took me a few listens to understand and to love. A beautiful ballad, the word ‘uisce fhuraithe’ perfectly encapsulates this song, meaning the coolness only water can bring you. This song made me feel like floating in a river on a hot day, and I loved every second of it.
What a lad! The first song on the album written solely by Hozier, this song encapsulates what growing up in rural Ireland was like. The beautiful lyrics prove his abilities as a songwriter by taking him back to his roots.
Another call home- “I’d settle for a shopping trolley in the Liffey-” Irish listeners will have a great craic with this song. One of the most underrated songs on the album, Hozier blends blues, Zydeco, and African street rhythms to create this folksy love song.
Although this was one of the less impressive songs on such a remarkable album, I couldn’t help but think about how beautiful it will be when 3Arena lights up with phone lights during the perfectly timed “ooh ooh oohs.”
The second song on the album that Hozier wrote independently is raw and beautiful, giving his incredible voice a chance to shine. Reminiscent of famous Irish folk singers like Christy Moore and Paul Brady, ‘Unknown/Nth’ reminds Ireland of the past while looking toward the future.
This song truly is the definition of an epic. At first listen, this song seems like it has too much going on, which is why it is the perfect ending. A heavy rock ballad, the song descends into chaos, ending with quiet, simple chords.
With this ground-breaking album, Hozier has not only matched the raw emotion and unapologetic message of “Take Me to Church,” he has bested it. Hozier is and will continue to be one of the best voices of today’s generation, and this is indeed his best album.