HOZIER IS AN artist known for using biblical, religious, and mythological allusions to make sense of the complexity of human relationships. So, it’s appropriate that he begins Unreal Unearth, his newest and third album, at the beginning. The opening track, “De Selby (Part 1),” serves as a musical preamble that recalls one of the most striking and haunting scenes in the Bible: Genesis 1. Lyrically, Hozier takes us to the very beginning, the Spirit floating, formless, above the void. In a sort of abstract for the album, he sings of “the likes of a darkness so deep / that God, at the start, couldn’t bear.” It was a depth of aloneness so “intolerable,” Hozier explains on his YouTube channel, that God “had to create the world.”
The rest of the album is structured as an epic journey that draws on biblical wellsprings for inspiration. Hozier has spoken publicly about being inspired by Dante’s Inferno. As he journeyed through the isolation and devastation of the pandemic, Hozier saw his story reflected in the 14th-century text by the Italian poet who realized the only way out of the underworld — and into the light — is through it.