Unreal Unearth is Truly Unreal

By Anna Genna

Andrew Hozier-Byrne’s third album, Unreal Unearth, proves to be a musical masterpiece and has career firsts for the singer. Not only was this album written during the pandemic, but the singer also collaborated with other lyricists for the first time. Hozier’s songs contain a plethora of stories, with the songs on this album based primarily on Dante’s Inferno and Irish history. This, and more, adds this album to the long list of Hozier’s deep and meaningful works. 

Here is a review of the songs that struck closest to my heart:

“DeSelby (Part 1)”:

DeSelby, a character in The Third Policeman, is a philosopher and scholar who views life through a dream-like lens. He is on a strange journey, trying to make sense of the world around him, and in the lyrics of this song, we see him with a disconnection from his life and a sense of being lost. At the end of the song, the lyrics are in Gaelic, with the translation basing around the idea of not knowing where things end or begin.

Musically, this song is very melancholic. The instrumental is simple to highlight Hozier’s vocals, as well as using harmonies to give a soothing yet overwhelming feeling. Right before the language switches, there is a break of silence, allowing for the weight of the Gaelic to fully set in. Over the course of this album, Hozier often uses a moment of silence before an essential part of the song, often the chorus, and in this case the outro. The transition between parts one and two is connected through what sounds like tapping on a glass cup.

“DeSelby (Part 2)”:

“DeSelby pt. 2” contains the same background as the first, however, this song is much more upbeat. The subtle theme of not knowing where things begin and end is carried into this song. I feel this song reflects the idea of going to the ends of the Earth for someone the narrator cares for and becoming lost in that feeling.

As aforementioned, this song is starkly different from part one, with a bass line carrying the song and much more percussion used. The call-and-response method used in the refrain is also well done, adding to the idea of being lost in emotion or thoughts. The minimal instruments used in the pre-chorus, then giving way to a scream transition and chorus create good tension throughout the entire song. 


Francesca is based on the real-life story of Francesca da Rimini, who was known for being murdered by her husband after having an affair with his brother. She is featured in the Second Circle of Hell in Inferno. This affair is seen most directly in the lyrics: “Heaven is not fit to house a love like you and I.” The song tells the story from Francesca’s point of view, saying that despite it ending in pain for both, she would do it all over again to experience that sort of love.

This song has simpler instrumentals for verses, allowing Hozier’s voice to shine through, with an effect that allows his voice to hang for a moment after he stops singing, like an echo or ringing. The sad, yet grateful nature of the song is well reflected in the chorus, with a sense of yearning coming through. The change in pace from the chorus to the outro is incredibly pretty and almost brain-numbing. The only real criticism I have for this song is that the looping and harmonies that are used in the outro make it difficult to discern what the lyrics say. 

“Eat Your Young” (Album and Choral version):

“Eat Your Young” is told by an untrustworthy narrator who is all too positive when it comes to the content being discussed. The lyrics tell the unfortunate reality of the younger generations, and how they will be forced to take on a world that older generations have used up and left with issues. It now becomes the younger generations’ responsibility to fix the issues, but if history is to be repeated, the world is on a downward spiral. The music video for this song also adds a layer to the storytelling.

There are two versions of “Eat Your Young” that have been released; the one featured on the album and a choral version released as a single. I would recommend listening to the album version first, as the lyrics are easier to understand and the gist is clear. And yet the choral version is the song that gives goosebumps. Labeled as “Bekon’s Choral Version”, this form of the song allows for an acapella performance. There is something about voices being used rather than instruments that makes this sound haunting. The lower voices are something that stands out, as well as the use of volume in the song. The slow crescendos of the backing vocals truly make this song better. During the breaks after a chorus, the higher voices almost sound like a large bell ringing. I am not sure whether that is intentional or not, but it does add another layer to this song. This song has a much different feel from the original, haunting and sorrowful, and yet somehow manages to convey the same message as the original. 

“Son of Nyx”:

A song with no lyrics, “Son of Nyx” revolves around Nyx, the Greek goddess of night, and one of her sons, Charon, who ferries people to the underworld. This is a voice memo from the deceased Alex Ryan of him playing the piano. Because it is a voice memo, background noise such as a clock ticking can be heard, especially in the beginning, making this song feel more raw and sad. The voices that are in this song are all vocals from other songs on the album, distorted to sound slightly different. 

Without lyrics there are no words that can have meaning taken from them, making it a piece that is more personal. The distorted voices sound almost like sirens throughout the song, and there is much tension throughout this song. The occasional breaks of silence for a new movement to come through help to relieve some tension, and yet the song ends on an uncomfortable and almost unresolved note.  


To put it simply, when I first heard this song it made me cry. While it is difficult to decide which song in this album is the best, this one is undoubtedly my favorite. The ideas of betrayal, heartbreak, and distance are shown through the music very well. The lyrics of this song also are incredibly well written, even with less mythology or history to be based on. 

This song gives off less of a dark sound than many of the other songs on this list do. The instrumentals of this song are on the simple side, and the vocals with a slight echo feel lonely. Again volume is used well in this song, with lines starting strong and tapering off towards the end. I am sure I could say more about this song’s composition, but the fact that it made me cry the first time I listened to it is more than enough for me.