Album review: Hozier revisits Dante’s Inferno with new EP, “Unheard”

Album review: Hozier revisits Dante’s Inferno with new EP, “Unheard”

A week after hinting to fans that new music was on the way, Irish folk-rock singer Hozier released four previously unreleased tracks from his third album “Unreal Unearth.” The EP, aptly titled “Unheard,” continues Hozier’s exploration of the “Divine Comedy,” a three-part epic poem written in 1321 by Dante Alighieri. 

Each song from “Unreal Unearth” and “Unheard” represents one of the nine circles of Hell from the first part of the “Divine Comedy,” “Inferno,” — limbo, lust, gluttony, greed, wrath, heresy, violence, fraud and treachery. With heart-wrenching lyrics and melancholic instrumentals, “Unheard” serves to tell stories of love, loss and the uncertainty of it all. 

The intro track, “Too Sweet,” was teased on Hozier’s social media at the beginning of the week and immediately went viral with fans. This song aligns with Dante’s Third Circle of Hell, gluttony, and tells a story between two people with different ideals and lifestyles. One of them enjoys living at their own pace and indulging in life’s simple pleasures, while the other holds more value in structure and more healthy lifestyles. Hozier compares these two people — presumably partners — with the lyrics, “I think I’ll take my whiskey neat / My coffee black and my bed at three / You’re too sweet for me.” 

The second song, “Wildflowers and Barley,” features pop-singer and Hozier’s upcoming tour opener, Allison Russell. With a folksy beat similar to Hozier’s typical style, this track reflects on the persistence of renewal in nature with repeating phrases throughout the lyrics, “Everything in my vision is movement and life / Riverboat, wheelbarrow, wildflower and barley.” Hozier and Russell harmonize together later in this verse with parallel lines, “Everything in my vision, departure and death / Riverboat, wheelbarrow, wildflower and barley.” The circular structure of the lyrics also serves as a beautiful metaphor for the First Circle of Hell in the “Inferno,” limbo. 

The third song on the EP is “Empire Now,” arguably the most dramatic of the four tracks with heavy orchestral swells matched with lyrics that are full of hope for the future of the world. The lines of the first verse, “After all, darling, I wouldn’t sell the world / The way that things are turning / If it falls, I would hold on for all it’s worth / The future’s so bright it’s burning,” suggest that change is coming no matter what is done to try to stop it, and align with the Seventh Circle of Hell. The theatrical nature of this song is where it differs slightly from the rest of Hozier’s discography but the heaviness of it provides a break from the softness many associate Hozier with.

Concluding the EP and beginning the ascent out of Hell is “Fare Well.” This song is much softer compared to its predecessor, its soft acoustic beat creating a perfect outro to the album. The lyrics discuss themes of finding even fleeting moments of joy in the darkest of times and though those times may be fleeting, they should not be denied “Joy, disaster, come unbound here / I’ll deny me none while I’m allowed / With all things above the ground.” The best way to describe this song would be ethereal. It makes sense that “First Light” replaced it on his full album “Unreal Unearth” but “Fare Well” would create a perfect intro track should Hozier continue through the “Divine Comedy” and create an album based on the second part, “Purgatorio.”

“Unheard” was a much anticipated EP from Hozier and was completely worth the hype for fans. His interpretations of the circles of Hell are so beautiful, but it makes sense that these four were kept from “Unreal Unearth” as the tracks on the full album were better representative of “Inferno.” This EP would be perfect for someone looking to get into Hozier’s music but is unsure where to start, as these four tracks show the range of his music. 

Hozier will begin the second leg of his North American tour on April 20 in Raleigh. For those interested in listening to the EP, the link can be found here.

 

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