After 14 years of silence, alt-metal supergroup A Perfect Circle returned with Eat the Elephant. Previously active on 2004’s antiwar eMOTIVe — when the U.S. was embroiled in a different state of social upheaval — they re-emerged in 2018 at another pivotal time with just as much to say. While much transpired in their absence, A Perfect Circle evolved, addressing government shifts, technological advances, and social deterioration in a manner befitting of frontman Maynard James Keenan, who delivers some of the most wickedly barbed lyrics of his career. Here, Keenan and co-founder Billy Howerdel are joined by a revamped lineup that includes James Iha, Matt McJunkins, and Jeff Friedl, as well as producer Dave Sardy (Oasis, LCD Soundsystem). This matured incarnation of the band balances brute force with softer moments that may surprise, yet digging deeper reveals a wealth of poetic lyricism and social commentary. The title track ushers in this new era, a melancholy prelude that sounds eerily similar to Cat Power’s bittersweet “The Greatest.” As Keenan repeats “Just take the bite/Just go all in,” he’s not only convincing himself to commit to this daunting, long-incubating endeavor (while also slyly explaining the album’s proverbial title), but also beseeching listeners to join him. As the plaintive entreaty fades out, Eat the Elephant kicks into gear without looking back. Highlight “Disillusioned” is a gorgeous lament about the pitfalls of modern technology, while “The Doomed” twists the seven deadly sins into “new beatitudes,” crushing the eponymous members of society who value decency while blessing the “fornicators… the rich… the gluttonous.” “TalkTalk” takes aim at gun violence (“Thoughts and prayers/Like cake in a crisis/While you deliberate/Bodies accumulate”), challenging the falsely pious to “try walking like Jesus.” On the cheeky “So Long, And Thanks for All the Fish” — a reference to Douglas Adams’ book of the same name — the state of the union is so dire that even the dolphins have bailed, along with Gene Wilder, Carrie Fisher, David Bowie, Prince, and Muhammad Ali. Elsewhere, Keenan and Howerdel pull the sonic touchstones closer to home. “By and Down the River” builds like a lost track from Tool’s Lateralus sessions, while the ominous “Hourglass” counts down with crunching guitars and industrial programming, blending Depeche Mode and Primus. “The Contrarian” also tips its hat to Depeche Mode, as well as Nine Inch Nails, while “DLB” sounds like a lost instrumental from the latter band. “Get the Lead Out” closes the effort with unexpected DJ scratching by UZ and a vocal performance oddly reminiscent of Alt-J. It’s a lot to unpack and digest, but altogether satisfying. Adding another interpretation to the album’s multi-layered title, Eat the Elephant might also refer to the Indian parable of the blind men describing the titular pachyderm: each song a wildly different part of the whole, yet unmistakably belonging to the same powerful beast. It’s a cohesive and bold statement from A Perfect Circle, a triumphant comeback after too much time away.