By: Zachary Kolesar, In The Record Store staff writer.
The album cover for After-Death Plan’s debut album, “Literature” features a set of ghostly hands grasping a book with ragged edges. It is fitting for a concept album that — put together by married duo Lesley Ann Fogle and Constantine Hondroulis — was inspired by a shared interest in a number of classic texts.
The couple has long been entrenched in musical projects. While Fogle’s roots stem from opera and classical training, Hondroulis has been collaborating with his brother George and friends in local rock outfits Our Flesh Party, Salt Horse and Earwig since the late 80's.
Fogle and Hondroulis did not meet until the 90's, and it wasn’t until five years ago that After-Death Plan came to fruition. It is edgy, daring music wrapped in sentimentality, with Fogle’s voice as the elegant conductor and Hondroulis’ innovative rhythms that put “Literature” in a league of its own.
“It'd be easy to think of ADP as a secondary thing that we do, so we worked hard at not letting it be that because we knew we were on to something special,” bassist and singer-songwriter Hondroulis said.
When Fogle was living in Chicago working at a recording studio and working with a decades-long collaborative of rotating musicians called Mal VU, a dedicated Hondroulis would make the haul across state lines at least once a month. The Mal VU sessions and Hondroulis’ frequent visits soon spawned After-Death Plan, and instead of putting what was bubbling aside, the two shifted their attention toward ADP.
“We ended up writing dark songs,” Hondroulis said. “They were really great, and a lot of times the inspiration from those songs were from great pieces of art.”
The writing process in Chicago centered around respected paintings, music and theater works. However, the focus narrowed in on literature as more and more work went into ADP. Thus “Literature” was born, a collection that ADP has been perfecting for the past two or three years, Hondroulis said.
When the two returned to Columbus, a batch of songs inspired by literature were refined enough to further explore the concept.
The texts predate this century and were detailed in a post by Fogle following the album’s January 1 release. The idea of learning about human nature’s dark ends, depicted in novels like Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” or Mikhail Bulgakov’s “Master and Margarita,” were masterfully brought to life through tantalizing sonics on “Literature.”
“We're interested in the mysteries of the universe, mysteries of life, and found that these books spoke to those things we were interested in,” Hondroulis said. “You might find a common theme in all of them of introspection, looking out, as in look toward yourself and then back out and how it's all connected to the rest of the universe and other people.”
There are tracks like “Picking Bones” and “To the Body in the Clay” where a bass line or drum resurrects the ominous feeling stylized as American Gothic Nous Rock, according to the duo’s about page. The album’s first track, “Master & Margarita,” accurately captures the genre, featuring mysterious keys, a simple, yet daunting, guitar riff and echoing vocals with a scathing, “and your love’s almost done” parting message.
However, when the album seems to be taking a sonically harsher turn, the tranquilizing effects of the organ layered with Fogle’s airy vocals on “Into Grey” capture the introspective feeling Hondroulis discussed.
“I would say the After-Death Plan record is probably the most ambitious out of all the stuff we have worked on in terms of being in the studio and really honing in on the composition and sonics of what it is we're trying to convey,” Hondroulis said.
With the couple’s wide range of collaborations outside of After-Death Plan, the two found a way to give “Literature” the attention it deserved in the studio. The hands on the cover of the album may be outdated, but ADP’s sound is intoxicating. Riding high off of its early 2017 release, ADP can turn even more heads with its apt attention and precision in the studio.