- 04 Aug 23
The Greatest Show On Unearth
If you thought that scoring a US number one with Wasteland, Baby! means that Hozier has nothing left to prove, think again.
When Hot Press spent some quality time with him recently, you could sense the Wicklow singer’s quiet determination to take things to an even more exalted level – which he does on a third studio outing that’s loosely based on Dante’s Nine Circles Of Hell.
The first thing he’s done to raise the stakes is recruit a crack new bunch of players under the musical directorship of old pal Alex Ryan who are all hardened Nashville veterans, although not necessarily of the country persuasion. While Hozier has always surrounded himself with talented types, these guys and gals are truly exceptional throughout.
Things get off to an exquisite start with ‘DeSelby Part 1’ and ‘DeSelby Part 2’, a song suite that goes from sensuous hushed vocals, gently strummed guitars and ambient textures to a symphonic funk groove of immense proportions.
Performed partly as Gaeilge, it’s a feast for the auditory senses. Equal parts love, lust and loss song, ‘Francesca’ builds to a thrilling, Phill Spector Wall of Sound climax that alternates between heaven and that hell of Dante’s. A description which, if anything, undersells the song.
If it’s balm for the soul you’re after, look no further than the gorgeously delicate ‘I, Carrion, (Icarian)’, which Hozier pillow talks his way through.
The highlights come thick and fast after that with ‘Damage Gets Done’ featuring some wonderful harmonising with his Music City pal Brandi Carlile; ‘Butchered Tongue’ confirming Andrew John Hozier-Byrne as a thoroughly modern singer of the blues; ‘Anything But’ a Flamenco foot stomper, which references the shopping trolleys that forlornly end up in the Liffey; and ‘First Light’, a gospel belter that matches the majesty of ‘Nina Cried Power’ whilst doing entirely its own thing.
There’s lots of musical risk-taking – ‘Son Of Nix’, for instance, strays tantalisingly into Ennio Morricone soundtrack territory – but zero missteps on an album that fully realises Hozier’s ambitions – and then some!