Retrospective: Acme’s “…To Reduce the Choir to One Soloist”

Acme. Mörser. Systral. Ah, yes… those of you who just got goosebumps know what’s up. Those who don’t, time to get schooled. These bands—throw Carol in there too, for good measure—created some of the heaviest, most chaotic, and, well… yeah, heaviest sounds around at the time. Seriously: this is heavy. The band was rooted in chaotic metallic hardcore, and found wide acceptance in the hardcore scene at the time, but longhairs also definitely appreciated Acme’s insanity.

The band is legend, and they never even released an album: 1996’s …To Reduce the Choir to One Soloist is only 24 minutes long and is actually a collection of Acme’s 7” and miscellaneous other songs; there are only nine tracks here, and a couple of those are even repeats (“Repress” is two of the last three songs, and “Attempt” appears near the beginning and near the end of …To Reduce the Choir…). This was not a band of quantity, but when it comes to insane, early ’90s metallic hardcore, there is none heavier.

The first four songs here are the best; they make up the band’s self-titled 7” from 1994, and, man, are they ever worth spending some time with.

Opener “Blind” is one of the catchiest examples of this sort of metallic hardcore, ever. That opening part basically is never not somewhere in my head, and as an album opener, it’s up there with some of the classics. Through the insane production—somehow all treble and all bass all at once—a groove shows, some songwriting skills pop up, and pure heaviness blasts through loud and clear.

“Ordinary” showcases why this band was popular with the hardcore and, gulp, emo scenes of the time; this 7” could have come out on Ebullition Records—who, make no mistake, ruled—and no one would have blinked an eye.

Now, although the 7” material is my favorite on here, the other stuff is more or less up to the same quality, although some of it carries a heavier hardcore influence and has lesser production qualities. But songs like “Cathode” totally kill it, the band arriving in the same emotional spot as bands like Converge or Coalesce but taking a whole other route to get there.

And, really, it’s that aforementioned spot that Acme brings us to with their music that is the reason why we’re still talking about this 24-minute compilation 22 years later; we rant and rave about Converge (and for good reason) and the catharsis that their particular strain of sonic extremity provides; we love Coalesce for the same reason, for the release and satisfaction found within their crashing hardcore. But Acme’s songs bring with them that same sense of pure emotional fury, of feedback-drenched chaos that is more than just feedback-drenched chaos.

This collection is worth spending time with, worth getting to know, worth making a part of your life. Heck, the 7” alone will do just fine if you’re crunched for time; the damn thing is under 10 minutes but is a classic in its own right. Acme tapped into something special during their short run (1991 to 1995) as a band, and on some days I think it’s what we’re all hoping to find in our search through metal and hardcore. Enjoy this album; don’t let it be forgotten.