Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

“Unreal Unearth” review: A divine journey through life and love

Courtesy+of+Rubyworks+Records
Courtesy of Rubyworks Records

Since 2013, Irish singer-songwriter Andrew “Hozier” John Hozier-Byrne has graced the music world with his complex, entrancing music. Known for adding elements of folk and blues to an already soulful indie-rock sound, Hozier continues to evolve as both an artist and a performer. Over the last decade, his songs have told stories of loss, hope, love, and other human experiences. His latest record, “Unreal Unearth”, is no exception to this pattern. However, it succeeds in being a beautiful and refreshing experience that proves Hozier’s growth and passion as a musician.

Released on August 18th, 2023, “Unreal Unearth” is best described as a sort of musical voyage, one that traverses the pain and pleasure of human existence. With the album’s major inspirations being Dante Allegheri’s “Inferno” and Flann O’Brien’s “The Third Policeman”, this analysis is much more fitting than it initially sounds. Hozier tells his story through thoughtful lyricism, near-impeccable instrumentation, and the tracklist itself.

Take, for instance, the opening track and its subsequent companion: “De Selby (Part 1)” and “De Selby (Part 2)”. While these songs are certainly enjoyable on their own, it is the connection between them that strengthens the impression they leave. Beginning with soft vocals and a calming acoustic guitar, “Part 1” saw Hozier discussing the encroaching darkness that inevitably comes with loneliness, with love often being sought as a solution to solitude. These themes are cemented by Hozier’s Irish singing at the end of the song. The emptiness in Hozier’s voice during this part of the song evokes a strong feeling of being lost in the dark and trying as hard as you can to find the light.

“De Selby (Part 1)” is a prelude to the dark journey that Hozier is about to embark on. Fitting to the track’s lyrics and themes, the following song completes this overture; adding drums, synthesizers, and exchanging the acoustic guitar for a groovy and aggressive electric counterpart, “De Selby (Part 2)” represents a brave step into the unknown. Hozier elevates his voice, singing about the fervor he feels for his new lover and professing his desire to face adversity with them. This track takes that feeling of being lost in the dark and adds excitement and curiosity to it. Hozier’s proclamation is that lovers inevitably become one person as they share passions, desires, and the darkness around them. These two tracks are an excellent opener to “Unreal Unearth”, and they only become better when they are listened to one after the other.

Hozier maintains this feeling throughout the entirety of the album, and he does so in an unique and clever fashion. The more somber tracks like “I, Carrion (Icarian)” and “Son of Nyx” give listeners time to rest and reflect before Hozier hits hard with heavier tracks such as “Who We Are” and “All Things End”. “Eat Your Young” in particular is a fun and suggestive pop track that draws upon the circles of Hell from “Inferno” to convey the hunger that is present alongside desire, whether that be for a person or for money and power. While this order of songs does cause there to be some sudden shifts in tone, the contrast doesn’t take away from the album’s imagery of a journey and, ultimately, a relationship.

While “De Selby (Part 1)” and “De Selby (Part 2)” are certainly the most impressive tracks on the album in terms of how they are used to convey Hozier’s vision, the album ends on a fantastic and arguably more memorable note with “First Light”. This ode celebrates the artist’s return to the light after traveling through the darkness, both with and without his lover; his voice sounds bittersweet, as if he is both grateful and disappointed that he finally found peace after a long period of sorrow. The slow buildup of instruments and the realizations expressed through Hozier’s verses culminate in a brilliant chorus that evokes a simple but profound message: The sooner you embrace the truth of the past and the uncertainty of the future, the sooner you’ll find happiness.

“Unreal Unearth” is Hozier’s most powerful record yet, and it is a testament to his evolution as a musician and storyteller. Exploring the complexity of relationships and desires, this album also touches on the struggles that simply come with being human. While some may say that Hozier relies too much on his inspirations to convey his message, the passion he evokes through his songwriting is undeniable. Whether you’re entering a new relationship, going through a breakup, embarking on your own journey of self discovery, or simply looking for some good music to listen to, this album is bound to resonate with you.

 

“Unreal Unearth” is now available on all streaming platforms.

Illustration by Ariel Landry

 

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About the Contributor
June Fernandez, Reviews Editor
June Fernandez currently serves as The Maroon's Reviews Editor. June is a junior majoring in computer science and is pursuing a career in software engineering. In their free time you can find them reading a science fiction novel, people watching, or browsing a local record store! June can be reached at [email protected].

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