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The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Review | New Hozier album ‘Unreal Unearth’ melds earthy imagery with classic melancholic tone 

The Irish singer released the bewitching album to eagerly awaiting fans, combining themes of gossamer relationships with historical references and religious sounds alike. 
Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean
Hozier performs during the Love Rising concert at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., Monday, March 20, 2023. Loverising 032123 An 048

The release of Hozier’s third-ever full album was an ethereal occasion for me, to say the least. At midnight on Friday, the Irish artist released “Unreal Unearth.”

“De Selby Part 1”

First up on the 16-track album is “De Selby Part 1” which immediately conveys the overarching tone of the collection as a bridge between the celestial and earthly. With plentiful religious references and lyrics beautifully sung in Irish Gaelic, the song is unabashedly characteristic of Hozier.

“De Selby Part 2”

“De Selby Part 2” has a different vibe, but one that continues the theme of battling darkness through a bass-heavy backing track. It might take the crown as the album’s biggest hit if not for its already-released singles.

“First Time”

Another classically Hozier song, “First Time” is not overwhelmingly melancholy in tone, but its lyrics do convey the feeling of “infinitely suffering” when experiencing heartbreak. The lyrics, “This life lived mostly underground / Unknowin’ either sight nor sound / ‘Til reachin’ up for sunlight just to be ripped out by the stem” strike me in such a beautiful but intensely sad way; I can’t get enough of the nature metaphors when it comes to relationship struggles.


It only gets better with “Francesca,” which has become one of my personal favorite Hozier songs of all time since its early release back in May. I love the dichotomy of the intense rock jive with the echoing choral segment at the end. It leaves me with a strange positive nihilistic feeling every time I listen to it, especially with the lyrics, “My life was a storm, since I was born / How could I fear any hurricane? / If someone asked me at the end / I’ll tell them put me back in it.”

“I, Carrion (Icarian)”

This track’s title gave me pause; Icarus metaphors are perhaps some of the most overused within romantic Greek mythology references, let alone Icarian wordplay. Even so, I loved this song. “I, Carrion (Icarian)” opens with a haunting vocal harmony, before moving into lovely acoustic guitar. I expected a few tears going into this album, and this song carried out that vision. The lyrics “If you need to, darling, lean your weight to me / We’ll float away, but if we fall / I only pray, don’t fall away from me” make me yearn for a relationship I haven’t even had.

“Eat Your Young”

This song has been a hit of the summer after its release as a single back in March. “Eat Your Young” is definitely a bop, with a bouncy baseline and eerie violin elements that make it characteristically Hozier. Its message is intense — a commentary on the cycle of war and generational trauma — largely based upon the satirical 1729 essay “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathon Swift. Much of its lyrics are very dark, like “Skinning the children for a war drum / Putting food on the table selling bombs and guns / It’s quicker and easier to eat your young” but come wrapped up in a headbanging rhythm.

“Damage Gets Done”

The next track doesn’t really fit with the rest of the album to me. “Damage Gets Done” isn’t a bad song by any means, but it has a different feel from what I’m used to with Hozier. It might be because it’s a collab, but it sounds like pretty generic Indiepop to me.

“Who We Are”

“Who We Are” is a sad piano song that builds but didn’t strike me the way others on the album did. Hozier is belting out his vocals in this one, though, which I appreciate; his voice has always been powerful, but he really put it all into this one, which is beautiful in its own right.

“Son of Nyx”

This instrumental tune immediately has a darker tone than some of the other songs on the album. The melodies in “Son of Nyx” conjure images of foggy forests and abandoned churches in my mind; I could so easily see it being used in an A24 film during some psychologically transformative montage.

“All Things End”

“All Things End” was also released in March. This song, on the other hand, feels like a cozy diner at midnight surrounded by strangers experiencing their own ordeals. It’s emotional, acknowledges the hardships, but also leaves you feeling like everything will be okay, drawing from the same positive nihilism that “Francesca” put forward, with lyrics like “The last time I felt your weight on my chest, you said / ‘We didn’t get it right but, love, we did our best.’”

“To Someone from a Warm Climate (Uiscefhuaraithe)”

As someone from the Midwest, I deeply appreciate Hozier’s acknowledgment of the difference in how temperature and ambiance can affect the spirit. “To Someone from a Warm Climate” compares the frigid feeling of water on the skin — “Uiscefhuaraithe” translates to “water-cooled” in Gaelic — to loneliness and perhaps depression. The lyrics convey that the warmth of another body beside yours can bring physical and emotional heat; it could be read as erotic, or simply about human connection, which I find beautiful.

“Butchered Tongue”

This track seems to speak on trauma and linguistics, combining flowing Gaelic lyrics with gorey English ones like “A butchered tongue still singin’ here above the ground / The ears were chopped from young men if the pitch cap didn’t kill them / They are buried without scalp in the shattered bedrock of our home.” I like the grittiness Hozier employs in this album; this song feels directly connected to “Eat Your Young,” perhaps a precursor. It also calls to mind the lingual history of Ireland, and how the country’s native language was forbidden during English occupation.

“Anything But”

“Anything But” is super upbeat and funky in comparison; I could easily see it in an episode of “Derry Girls.” It was a nice change of pace but doesn’t really fit the overarching album tone to me.

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“Abstract (Psychopomp)”

This tune starts off a little slow, but I like the chorus. “Abstract” feels like the honeymoon phase of a new relationship with a twinge of anxiety, with intriguingly urban imagery through lyrics like “Trapped within an abstract from a moment of my life / The weeds up through the concrete / The traffic picking up speed.”

“Unknown / Nth”

“Unknown” is another pre-released song that came out in June. It calms me and makes me yearn to sit on the shore of a lake and bathe in dappled sunlight. Its lyrics explore the dichotomy of being alone versus being unknown, as the title hints; it contrasts the hurt from the lack of a relationship — not being “known” — and purposely spending time by yourself.

“First Light”

This is a brazenly gorgeous song from the get-go. “First Light” captures the big feelings Hozier so often describes in his poetic lyrics. The instrumentals of this song are not my favorite from the album, but they work very well with the vocals. It’s not overly sad, but a twinge of sorrow always laces Hozier’s words. It builds to an epic crescendo before fading into a few final strums of an acoustic guitar: a very fitting way to end this journey of an album.

It has always been clear that Hozier’s connection to the art of music is ineffably strong, and “Unreal Unearth” only proves this further. Its masterful use of choral tones, passionate lyricism, and flagrant emotion leave me soothed, yet already craving more Hozier.

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About the Contributor
Parker Jones
Parker Jones, Managing Editor
Parker Jones is the Managing Editor at The Daily Iowan. She is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema with a minor in art. Previously, she was an arts editor, an arts reporter, and a digital producer for the DI.