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The news site of Ludlow High School

The Cub

Hozier: “captivating listening experience”


Who is Andrew John Hozier-Byrne and why is it that he has an impressive twenty-seven million monthly listeners? Hozier, born Andrew John Hozier-Byrne in Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland, emerged onto the global music scene with his self-titled debut album in 2014, highlighted by the powerful anthem “Take Me to Church.” His distinctive blend of folk, rock, and soul, coupled with poignant lyricism, garnered widespread acclaim and catapulted him to international stardom. Hozier draws inspiration from a diverse array of musical influences, including blues legends, gospel hymns, and the rich cultural heritage of his native Ireland. Since his rise to prominence, he has released multiple albums, his newest, Unreal Unearth, he is touring the world for, all which deserve review and recognition.

The album Unreal Unearth is a poetical work of art, as every nook and cranny refers to some form of advanced literature, while also relating such references to ideas about topics ranging from relationships and heartbreak, to colonialism and capitalism. To fully understand the lyrics and references within Unreal Unearth is a large undertaking, as Hozier masterfully lines his lyrics with metaphor after metaphor, all relating to some complicated overarching theme. But, even if a listener wishes to take Unreal Unearth at face value, they will be pleasantly surprised at how no song sounds alike, as well as how well Hozier’s smooth voice mixes with his creative melodies.

Ava Pezcka, who attended a Hozier performance with me, and is an avid fan of Hozier, mentions how his songs “lead to a really captivating listening experience that you can try to decipher as much as you want, or just listen because it sounds cool,” affirming the duality, or multifacetedness of his lyrics. 

Overall, it’s an “unreal” experience to listen to this album, especially due to his creative inspiration. In this album, he was heavily inspired by the novel Inferno, which details Dante’s excursion through the nine circles of hell, so that he may return to heaven where his love awaits. 

De Selby (1 & 2)

De Selby represents the descent into the underworld, and in part one, Hozier sings about themes of emptiness and loneliness. His outro is sung lullingly in Gaelic, transporting the listener to an almost mythical word, and is about the mixing and meshing of light and darkness as well as metamorphosis. As put simply by Ava Pezcka, “De Selby part one is a super beautiful, metaphorical song (even if I can’t understand the lyrics)”. The song is slower at the start, where there is use of acoustic guitar, but it slowly grows more intense as the song moves along and it then seemlessly transitions into part two of the song. 

Part two explores getting lost in the darkness and becoming one with it, in turn finding some form of freedom. He specifically discusses getting lost with someone he loves as well, which is an expansion on the themes of metamorphosis and darkness in part one. Hozier utilizes an unique funk-rock sound, and has a faster tempo than part one which sparks urgency within the listener. The overall makes it a fun song to listen to, and Ava Pezcka would agree: “part two is…incredibly catchy and just fun to listen to”, a statement which comes from a credible Hozier fan.

First Time

This song is directly related to the First Circle of Hell, which is Limbo. Souls are punished by living in a state of eternal desire, or lacking, as well as eternal darkness. The song presents itself as a love song, but if more closely inspected it is about Limbo, which can be seen when Hozier sings “This life lived mostly underground / Unknown neither sight nor sound /  Til reaching up for sunlight just to be ripped out by the stem’ ‘. In the song, he seems to be reminiscing about his desires, while forever unable to obtain them.

The song itself is sung in part in falsetto by Hozier, while the beat behind the lyrics is relatively upbeat and is paired with soothing background vocals. 


This song represents the Second Circle of Hell, which is Lust. The souls there must endure an eternal storm where they are tossed about with no reason, relating to how lustful acts are committed without reason. The song parallels the love story of Francesca de Rimmi and her affair with Paolo Malatesa, but frames them in a humanizing way. He allows it to be a force of love in face of a rampant storm, and even begins the song with “Do you think I’d give up? / That this might’ve shook the love from me / … .There’s not one thing that I would change”, that how even in exile they would still choose one another.

Paired with its inspiring meaning, “Francesca” makes for a song one could listen to repeatedly, due to its beautiful background vocals paired with a heavy, medium-paced beat, as well as a charming albeit intense chorus melody.

I, Carrion (Icarian)

In this song, Hozier sings lyrics heavily inspired by the myth of Icarus, the boy who flew too close to the sun. In the song, he relates the beginnings of a relationship to the euphoric beginning of the boy’s flight. He also speaks of how his love’s words lifts him up, and throughout the song he ironically speaks of how he will not fall, yet “If anything could fall at all, it’s / the world”. In sum, he speaks of reckless love without regret, and while the ending of such love is not described in the song, in accordance with the myth the listener can accurately imagine that in the end the world does not fall, rather him himself.

The song is akin to a lullaby, with soothing violin accompaniment, while Hozier sings in an equally soothing voice. Although, in foreshadowing to the end of the love he speaks of, there are occasional sharps, and twinges in Hozier’s voice. 

Eat Your Young

“Eat Your Young” is a song about gluttony, which is the third circle of hell referenced in Inferno. Multiple forms of gluttony are referenced in the song, such as food accompanied by sexual undertones. Corporate greed is also referred to, for example “Skinning’ the children for a war dream / Put it in front of the table, selling’ / bombs and guns / It’s quicker and easier to eat / your young”.  This signifies how corporations “kill the young” as the same companies that produce weapons for war also regulate food, making the song politically complicated.

With a striking beat behind it, this song makes an impression upon the listener as it exudes a daring, dangerous energy. Hozier completes the song with stunning riffs in between lyrics, as well as a somewhat intense piano.

Damage Gets Done (ft. Brandi Carlile)

Greed is represented in this song, and is touched upon by discussing how blame is wrongfully placed on the reckless young, instead of the corporate greed that is prominent in our society. This can be seen in the lyrics; “being blamed for a world we had no power in”.

This sound reflects its mentions of youth in the way that it’s refreshing and upbeat, relying heavily on upbeat guitar and a somewhat indie guitar. Hozier sings with Brandi Carlile, their voices mesh extremely well, paired with a diverse array of different background vocals.

Who We Are

The Fifth Circle of Hell is referenced in this song, which is Wrath. The lyrics relate our wrathful actions against others to their root causes, which is our personal traumas. Dante learns in Inferno that existence is violent and painful, and Hozier explores this with his lyrics. Expressed in the chorus, “So much of our lives / Is just carving through the dark / And the hardest part / Is who we are”.

Once again, he has amazing background vocals, this time consisting of Hozier hitting the high notes in the form of breath-taking riffs. The tone of this song is one of pain, especially seen in the background vocals, as well as the way Hozier portrays his voice throughout the song.

All Things End

The Sixth Circle of Hell is Heresy, which is reflected in this song. Hersey is in some form a betrayal, and Hozier speaks about the end of a relationship betraying his previous faith in said relationship. In other words, giving up faith in something one once believed in. This can be seen when Hozier sings of how “all things end / All that we intend is scrawled in the sand / And slips right through our hands’ ‘.

Hozier sings lamentably, grieving. This song is beautiful, with its key changes, and reliance on piano, as well as a full chorus of backing vocals.

Butchered Tongue

Violence, the Seventh Circle of Hell, is referenced in this tune, clear in the title. This is a place for those who have acted violently against their neighbors, and Hozier reflected on history where in the Wexford Rebellion of 1798, languages were butchered and ears were severed. It’s an ode to those who have suffered under oppression of language, and how they have surfaced, scattered, forced to endure unfortunate violence. Meaningful lines such as “With no translator left to sound / A butchered tongue still singing’ here above the ground” directly perpetuate the Seventh Circle.

In reflection of the heavy meaning behind the song, Hozier sings in a way that grieves the language lost, while the song relies mainly on melancholy violin and gentle piano. While other songs in the album seem to get infinitely more intense around the chorus, this song does so, but in a much more minute way. The background vocals of this song grieve along with Hozier, tying the melody together.

Anything But

Fraud is perpetuated in “Anything But”, the Eighth Circle of Hell. The lyrics “If I was a stampede you wouldn’t get a kick” as well as “If I was a riptide I wouldn’t take you out”, represent fraud in the way he wishes to be something else, instead of himself, and frames it in context of his actions and attitudes towards another individual, assumably someone he loves. In a way, the song frames fraud as a desire to be something that is worthy of love in a relationship.

“Anything But” consists of upbeat vocals, and upbeat clapping serving as the background beat. The guitar of this song pairs perfectly with the vibe perpetuated, all serving to allow this song to be seen as a love song when taking it at face value.

Unknown / Nth

Treachery is the final circle of hell. A story of being misunderstood in a relationship, in other terms, betrayal, is weaved into the lyrics. In this story, one’s heart was broken by someone who was previously trusted. “So I thought you were like an angel to me”, drives the narrative home, showing someone who seemed to have virtuous traits was easily mistaken for someone different.

First Light

Hozier’s mournful melody echoes through “First Light,” a beacon of hope amidst the darkness of Dante’s journey through Hell and one’s personal struggles. It’s a hymn of reconciliation, where Hozier doesn’t merely find the light blinding but celebrates its arrival. The verse, “And I can scarcely believe what I’m believing in / Could this be how every day begins?” resonates with the profound transformation akin to Dante’s voyage’s conclusion, echoing the lessons learned from the trials endured.

The Concert

Saratoga Springs in New York is where Hozier performed on May 19th, one of five concerts performed in upstate New York, and was Hozier’s most ticketed show. The venue resembled less of a stereotypical concert venue, and more of a festival, mainly due to the amount of people out of seats and on the lawn surrounding the actual seated area. The stage itself was nothing fancy, and there were no crazy implements. The stadium allowed for the audience to hear his voice loud and clear.

It was a good thing his voice was so coherent, as he for made an unforgettable performance. As Adam Roach, previously not a fan of Hozier, said that he felt “more inclined to listen to some more of his music [after the concert]. I didn’t realize how well he performed, and thought the songs were pretty good”. This pretty accurately sums up the concert, and all twenty of the songs that were played.

Allison Russel was his opener, one of her most notable songs being “Wildflower and Barley”, which was later sung during the performance. Unfortunately, we got there late due to issues with parking as the show was packed tight, and we didn’t get to see her perform. When Hozier came out, he began by complimenting Saratoga and announcing that this was his most ticketed show, and thanking the audience. 

His opener was De Selby from Unreal Unearth, and then hit us with two well loved songs from his debut album, “Jackie and Wilson ”, and “To Be Alone”. One of my favorites, “Dinner and Diatribes” was sung next, from his album Wasteland, Baby! Next was “Francesca”, from Unreal Unearth, and hearing his raw vocals, rich with emotion, made the song so much more impactful live.

Then, two songs were performed from his debut album, “It Will Come Back”, and “Cherry Wine”, one of my favorite dedicated love songs  by Hozier.

He escorted Allison onto the stage for a rendition of “Wildflower and Barley” from his latest album, then delved into the highly anticipated tracks of the evening. He serenaded the crowd with “Would That I” from the acclaimed ‘Wasteland, Baby!’ album, followed by “Too Sweet,” the chart-topping hit from ‘Unreal Unearth.’ The audience swayed along as he sang “Almost (Sweet Music)” from ‘Wasteland, Baby!’ and shocked them with “Eat Your Young” from ‘Unreal Unearth.’ The rhythm was beat through the venue as he performed “Movement” from ‘Wasteland, Baby!’ And to close the show, he mesmerized everyone with the timeless anthem “Take Me to Church” from his debut album. 

The encore consisted of “I, Carrion” from Unreal Unearth, “Nina Cried Power,” from the Nina Cried Power EP, and “Work Song,” from his debut, which Allison Russel came back out for and gave a spectacular performance.

From my impression, the background vocalists consisted of extremely skilled professionals. His vocal band consisted of Melissa McMillan, Larissa Maestro, Joy Morales, and Kristen Rogers. They reached ungodly registers, hit every note, and blended seamlessly with each other as well as Hozier throughout the seventeen main songs performed, as well as the three songs performed in the encore. 

The live background vocals, and vocals in general, made for a striking performance. Some live performers don’t match their studio vocals, but Hozier exceeds expectations. Listening to his live music made it all the more impactful as well. Put in straightforward terms by Peyton Brennan, a long-term Hozier fan, “In terms of music, I much rather prefer listening to it live.  I feel more connected with individual parts of the songs when it’s happening right in front of me”, which I feel applies fully to his performance, and is a statement I couldn’t agree with more.

in between each song he gratefully addressed the audience, and had a little conversation with the audience in between each one. It gave the concert an infinitely more personal feel, and although there were upwards of one hundred thousand people there Byrne was. In turn, the fans were all the more enthusiastic to cheer Hozier on, and were relatively respectful as a whole. Rightfully so, as the performance itself, from Hozier and his singers’ vocals, to the band, to the colorful light rigging that changed with each song, was spectacular overall.

Hozier is an exceptional artist and performer, and he deserves more recognition for his artistic skills and natural vocal talent.


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    Hayden DelRosario RodriguesJun 7, 2024 at 1:30 pm

    best explanation I’ve read ☺️