Review Summary: Even though they didn't end up on their previous album, these songs still resound with quality and message.
In most cases when artists go into the studio to record their albums they have extra material ready, just to be sure. This is particularly true when they have a concept in mind. In the end, a lot of material stays behind, acquiring a not so complimentary term of ‘spares.’ When eventually these spares are released as a separate material, it turns out that they are exactly that - spares that should have been left behind. They often mean very little, except for the completists.
Californian singer-songwriters Eric Anders and Mark O’Bitz are not exactly household names, even each of them, and as a duet, they have a sizeable collection of releases behind them. Why that is the case is something that can be mulled over, one of the reasons possibly being the surge of singer-songwriter releases in recent times. Still, on the evidence of their most recent EP “This Mortal Force,” the question of why gains in weight.
The four songs here were prepared at the same time as the duo was set to record their recent album “American Bardo.” As you may have guessed, it was a concept album based on George Saunders' Mann-Booker-Prize-winning novel, Lincoln in the Bardo. It turned out that the duo thought that the four songs were as good as those that ended up on the album, but did not fully fit into the concept. Still, they were somehow connected - as Anders puts it talking about the EP, “the title comes from the name others gave to Dante's afterlife poems, "The Divine Comedy," which I'm sure influenced Saunders' novel."
And actually, his description is quite on track. These four songs might have been spares for the album, but there is nothing that speaks of them as an afterthought or half-baked demos. These are fully formed and played out songs that have a theme themselves. Instead of just two guys and their acoustic guitars, they are full band social comments that actually the duo can be quite proud of. “This Mortal Force” really rises interest in the album they were initially intended for.