In Hell or High Water, Hozier Cannot Be Damned


Juliette Des Rosiers ’26
Copy Editor Intern

If referencing religious motifs was Hozier’s signature, his upcoming album Unreal Unearth is the equivalent of spraypainting his name across the Vatican.

The entire album will follow Dante’s Inferno, with songs guiding the reader through the nine circles of hell. To give his loyal fans a taste of what is simmering, Hozier generously released an EP with three songs rather than just a single. In another religious allusion, Hozier released the EP on March 17, otherwise known as St. Patrick’s Day. A fervent critic of the Irish Catholic Church, the release date was not only on theme with the album’s motifs but acted as a sonic “fuck you” to the Church. The EP is reminiscent of Hozier’s characteristic sultry, earthy sound and preps fans for a promising album release come summer.

The first song “Eat Your Young” represents the third circle: gluttony. In the song, Hozier describes a feast being prepared amid devolving chaos. However, the singer strays from the traditional definition of gluttony revolving around an insatiable desire for food. He expands the metaphor, including gluttony for money, violence, and sex. The verses allude to sexual acts, referencing teeth, heat, and dressings while the pre-chorus adds aspects of racing toward success and money. The song’s sound is dark, driving, and syrupy. Layers of percussion and guitar fade to swelling violins and piano that form a bewitching, seductive ambiance. In the chorus, Hozier references violence in the lines “Skinnin’ the children for a war drum/Puttin’ food on the table sellin’ bombs and guns” commenting on how his voracious appetite for violence comes at the sacrifice of children. The tagline “It’s quicker and easier to eat your young” is the final nail in the coffin of a rather morbid song. Hoxier ruminates that, in the dog-eat-dog world he built, the most efficient means to satiate his gluttonous desires would be to eat the young.

When the music is in conversation with the lyrics, the song reminds us of imminent danger, but not one worth stopping for. It feels like reaching out to touch a candle flame, the tantalizing sway of the fire biting back any warning of the sting of a burn. The moments of warmth before it must be worth it, right?

“All Things End” skips to the sixth circle to explore heresy. Heresy is defined as the rejection of social customs or, more commonly, expectations of organized religion. To portray this, Hozier preaches a Gen-Z favorite: “nothing really matters.” This counters the social expectations of tireless work and certain religious teachings about how your actions reflect on your life after death or rebirth. His line “All that we intend is scrawled in sand” turns the common phrase “etched in stone” on its head to emphasize how flimsy plans can be. However, Hozier relieves any potential pessimism by ending the chorus with the couplet “Won’t change our plans/ When we begin again.” This sentiment is supported by the soft jazzy music that gently uplifts the song to promote perseverance in the knowledge that reality is fleeting.

At the end, Hozier pulls upon the religious aspect of heresy by adding a gospel choir to the final two choruses. The sonic irony of having the choir sing about the impermanence of one’s actions and desires drives Hozier’s message and brings the song to a moving close.

The third song strays from the theme of Dante’s Inferno but is no less interesting. In a video on Instagram, Hozier explains that “Through Me (The Flood)” was written at the beginning of the pandemic and reflects his search for strength and optimism in uncertain times. Hozier pulls on the storytelling techniques typical of his folk music and begins the song with a verse telling of a man swimming into a deep sea. The song starts stripped of instrumentals but builds to an explosive chorus that speaks of finding strength that flows through him. Also characteristic of folk music, the song follows a basic A-B-C form through repetition of the verse, pre- chorus, and chorus melody.

Hozier once again employs a full gospel choir to add power to the driving instrumentals. “Through Me (The Flood)” exemplifies how Hozier can take themes of common, arguably exhausted conversation surrounding the pandemic and make it anew.

After three years with minimal music, Hozier surprised fans with a generous release that did not disappoint. Although it is unlikely that, based on the three teaser songs, Unreal Unearth will explore a new sound or new genre, it demonstrates promise for an interesting album. Hozier will likely once again demonstrate his mastery at writing an album that is both sonically cohesive and dynamic. Additionally, as exemplified in the EP, his elusive songwriting will aid in unraveling the complex themes of Dante’s Inferno. Hozier never fails to disappoint or surprise, with the Eat Your Young EP provoking intrigue and excitement for his long-awaited third album.

Image Source: Level 21 Mag

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