Unreal Unearth, Hozier Review

A closer look at Hozier’s 2023 album, Unreal Unearth.

Overall score: 8.3

For this first album review, I decided to take a look at an album I’m deeply familiar with. That is Hozier’s 3rd studio album, Unreal Unearth. Released in 2023 after a four-year break, Unreal Unearth was written during the COVID-19 pandemic and inspired by Dante’s Inferno **and the Nine Circles of Hell.

There are 16 songs on the album, loosely following the structure of the Nine Circles of Hell, with a descent and an ascent. It reached number 1 in the Irish and UK charts and number 3 in the USA.

Unreal Unearth consists of a lot of love and a lot of loss. Whilst it is a literature and mythology-heavy album, songs like Abstract (Psychopomp) and Butchered Tongue are deeply personal songs with a huge amount of emotion poured into them.

Abstract (Psychopomp) describes an animal dying in someone’s arms, and the story of a psychopomp (in Greek mythology, a guide that leads souls to the afterlife), with the narrator describing their fear of being trapped in these moments of loss.

Photo by Luke van Zyl on Unsplash

Francesca is one of the very powerful songs on the album (and a classic rock song), telling the story of Francesca da Rimini in Dante’s Inferno. The song describes the narrator’s unwavering love for Francesca, despite the great loss of losing her in the end. According to the story, Francesca was married to Gianciotto Malatesta, but she fell in love with his brother Paolo. They were caught by Gianciotto committing adultery, and he murdered them both in his rage, giving Francesca no time to repent her sins, and leading her to the second circle of hell, lust. The narrator of the song says he wouldn’t change anything and would do it all again to fall in love with her, despite having his heart broken at the end of the story.

The album isn’t an easy task for a casual listener. It’s full of mythology and metaphors that make learning the lyrics a challenge but is deeply enjoyable to spend time learning about. There is a lot of co-writing for this album, with only two of sixteen songs written solely by Hozier.

One of those songs is Butchered Tongue, where I think his personal voice shines through more than the rest. Butchered Tongue expresses his rage for the British violence in Ireland, with impactful and unnerving imagery. I would have liked to see more songs on the album with the rawness of Butchered Tongue, with his vocals shining through.

My favourite song on the album is Anything But, which is a carefree song with a close connection to nature and freedom. The song has a very different sound to the others and is less literature-based.

The overall score I gave for Unreal Unearth was 8.3. I loved this album, and I think it’s an incredibly creative piece of work that differs from a lot of what’s seen in the charts at the moment. I wish that it had there had been a bit more of Hozier’s distinctive writing in it, and maybe not relied so heavily on literature for the lyrics, but other than that, it’s a fantastic album that I’ve spent a huge amount of my time listening to. It’s a rich, emotional, and powerful piece of storytelling that slips between a delicate love song and a classic rock style. And it will remain in my mind for years to come.

That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed it, and if you didn’t agree, feel free to let me know why in the comments.

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