With a gap of 8 years, it was beginning to seem like Cypress Hill was going to tap out after the mismatched hodgepodge of ideas that was 2010's Rise Up. So when it was announced that the group would be releasing a full length in 2018 - with DJ Muggs set to produce the entire album - there was a glimmer of hope.

Though known in the mainstream for goliath hits such as 'Dr Greenthumb' and 'Insane in the Membrane', Cypress Hill are anything but just occasional hit-makers. Often pushing the envelope in their genre mixing, they've never been afraid to dash together a plethora of genres and styles to create hazy earworms throughout a project. Just go listen to 1995's Temples of Boom: it's aged incredibly well; Muggs' ominous production sounds better than ever in 2018.

However, since 2004 the group hasn’t released a project with a unifying concept or sound, instead electing to release multiple Greatest Hits albums and bringing in loads of guest artists to fill out a solitary release. So, on paper, Elephants on Acid seemed to promise the potential to bring them back to the formula that gave us their best work.

In a way, that is exactly what they delivered: a cohesive concept, filled with songs that echo some of their best efforts. Yet, mostly for the better, the album isn't simply satisfied with throwbacks to a bygone era of rap.

With psychedelic interludes, offbeat samples, and multi-layered instrumentation, Elephants on Acid delivers something altogether new. It would be easy for a nostalgic listener to be turned off by the album, as it seems inaccessible at first as it dedicates a huge part of its runtime to instrumental interludes, including one that appropriately sets elephant noises to a piano melody. Even B-Real's signature vocals are often buried into the mix to add to the psychedelic style of the project. While this decision might make some songs not as punchy as they could be, overall, it adds to the concept of the album. This is by no means a lacklustre effort with a couple of hits littered in; it is meant to be a listening experience from start to finish.

That is not to say that the album doesn’t deliver on standout tracks. Songs like 'Blood on My Hands' pairs an iconic set of verses from B-Real with whispered and monotone vocal echoes that nearly add a sense of schizophrenia to the song. The beat sounds like a classic Cypress Hill track on, yes, a bunch of acid: clearly the goal of an album with such a bizarre, even goofy, title.

Still, this isn’t quite a colourful trip. There is a sense of dread infused into the tracks, befitting an effort from the long-running group, reflected in the striking album artwork. The intro itself is an homage to Tusko, a zoo elephant who died after repeatedly being giving acid as part of a scientific experiment testing the effects of psychedelics on animals. The death of this creature and a sense of morbid realisation loom over the album, with cuts such as 'Warlord' cutting a menacing figure, opening with grandiose ritualistic drums, which lead into a hard-hitting verse in which B-Real's raps as a figure with a deity complex spreading “hellfire.” The interlude 'Muggs is Dead' also plays on the concept of mortality while managing to sound like watching Disney’s Alice in Wonderland on shrooms.

Of course, the group still have some fun. 'Oh Na Na' brings the group back into their classic element, a send up for marijuana, that recaptures the spirit of tracks like 'Hits from the Bong'. All the while, its sporadic horns make it feel right at home among the rest of the album's hazy aesthetic. While short-lived, the track proves that the band can still drop a catchy beat. This is also evident on 'Reefer Man' which has equally punchy horns and hypnotically simplistic drums. However, the muddy mixing of the track keeps it from being an iconic single, which, naturally, was probably the intent to begin with.

To my ears, this is one of the mains issues facing Elephants on Acid; while the consistently murky vibe may adds to the LP's concept and aesthetic, it often it feels like some great Cypress Hill tracks have been somewhat buried in the process. This will perhaps stop it from getting plays from a casual listener.

Nonetheless, it is truly a rewarding album for a hard-core fan base that has followed Cypress Hill for years, so it's unlikely the group's goal was courting a new audience. It's certain those already invested will be quick to acknowledge that the record is the group's best effort in a long time. Simultaneously, it is also perhaps one of the most dense and complex releases from the band. Granted, with the references to Satao the elephant and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s magnum opus The Holy Mountain, it's clear from the beginning that this was never meant to be an easy listen.

Whilst Cypress Hill could be passed off as "that band" your stoned college friend listened to ten years ago, they have always delivered, at the very least, some of the most interesting, atmospheric production in hip hop. They consistently manage to alter and even re-invent their sound, while never steering far from what makes them so damn enjoyable. With Elephants on Acid they often sacrifice, clearly by choice, catchiness for a more avant-garde complexity. There is a fantastic set of songs awaiting murkily on Elephants on Acid, and for Cypress Hill's intended audience here - the true fans - it's sure to be a joy unearthing them.