MATT BOROFF, “SWEET HAND OF FATE”
Throughout a storied career that’s found him sharing stages with such similarly forward-pushing artists as Bad Brains, Calexico, Queens of the Stone Age and Nirvana, Matt Boroff has excelled at luring audiences into new and exciting terrain, from experimental noise-rock to his years spent expanding the standard alternative-rock template with the Mirrors.
But the American-born, Austria-based singer, guitarist and songwriter takes things a step further on his second full-length solo album, “Sweet Hand of Fate.” Over the course of 10 bold, compelling tracks, Boroff plunges the listener into fully realized worlds, creating an immersive work that feels cinematic in scope.
“I basically wanted to craft an album that had the flavor, the tone, the mood of some of the films that I've found inspiring,” Boroff says, “like the work of David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Quentin Tarantino, Federico Fellini and many more. I didn't necessarily want to create a film soundtrack, but rather songs that could become films in your mind's eye.”
That approach is evident from the first moments of the album opener, “Lost,” as a searing guitar swirls over a subtly foreboding backdrop of horns and piano, echoing Boroff’s evocation of “sirens … moaning down the highway /drawing me to your light like I was a moth.” As the tension builds, the narrator asserts his desire to escape to something beyond the here and now, declaring “I wanna get lost” with increasing urgency.
It’s a fitting introduction, establishing a questing spirit that permeates the album, filled with characters who feel at odds with the world around them (“Here in Limbo,” “X,” “Filling in the Cracks”) or in search of something elusive (“Sweet Hand of Fate,” “Going to the Hypnotist”).
“I didn’t set out to write about anything particular,” Boroff says of the lyrics. “I always just try to give a voice to something that I already hear in the music.” That process resulted in recurring references to diving and descent, an image that underlines the album’s echoing themes of release and liberation—“this need to go through something cathartic,” he says, “something that you’re going to emerge on the other side of transformed.”
While many of the songs share some common themes, each stands as a distinct entity, establishing a separate viewpoint in the lyrics and music. In fact, the album’s sonic palette stretches from the Old World vibe of “Garbage Man” (which features a guest appearance by Mark Lanegan) to the insistent drums and jagged guitar riff of “Up Up Up in Flames.” Elsewhere, ethereal guitar work evokes the Spaghetti Western soundtracks of Ennio Morricone on “Filling in the Cracks,” while the choir that echoes Boroff’s ominous vocals on “My Black Heart” adds an otherworldly chill.
Through it all, Boroff hooks the listener with his expressive vocal delivery, which carries echoes of Tom Waits (“Going to the Hypnotist”), Nick Cave (“My Black Heart”) and even Leonard Cohen (“X”), while remaining unmistakably his own: alternately warm, weathered and world-weary, capable of veering from an understated croon to a fevered roar—often within the same song.
Filled with lyrical imagery and expansive musical environments, “Sweet Hand of Fate” finds Matt Boroff pushing his sound in new directions, reaffirming his place as one of the most unique and captivating musicians working today. It’s a document of an artist perched on the precipice between an accomplished past and an exciting future, eager to dive into the unknown.