Post-rock darling Mogwai rode the hype train all the way from Glasgow to world fame with the release of its 1993 debut Young Team but since has increasingly tested the patience of fans secured on hype alone. 2006’s Mr. Beast didn’t have the novelty, excitement or dynamism that made Young Team so well-loved among listeners and critics alike, and the result was a disappointing album that everyone was entirely justified to forget about. So what does a band like Mogwai do after the hype fails to make a poor album successful? They release a better one — the expectedly similar, yet engrossing, The Hawk is Howling.

No, this album isn’t any different from what Mogwai has been doing since the ’90s. It’s the same instrumental work the band has always created. Treading the same ground over and over again could make a listener bored, or maybe even cynical, especially when rock music with vocals is so much of our musical culture. But Hawk fortunately has some sharp edges while not simply resting on being loud, and it builds from brooding silences to crunching distortion without dragging on. Mogwai hasn’t changed its ways with The Hawk is Howling, but this bird has definitely sharpened its talons and taken flight.

The opener “I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead” is the usual soft, down-tempo and moody affair Mogwai loves so much but acts to tie Hawk to the band’s entire body of work. But the song’s twinkling second-act breakdown picks up the pace and rehashes a simple arpeggio for a dirty couple of minutes, acting as a well-designed bridge into the riotous EP-single “Batcat.” This track begins to differentiate Hawk from its predecessors, as it sounds uncannily like a Tool set-piece while retaining the atmospheric prog-rock structure Mogwai has perfected (in a somewhat tiring manner) over the course of six LPs.

But current trends in the alternative music world seem to have rubbed off interestingly on Mogwai, adding subtle nuances to the band’s sound that touch almost every new track. The psychedelically titled “The Sun Smells Too Loud” pairs a slow, repetitive guitar lick with cut-and-dry drumming and then bathes the whole thing with layers of shimmering and shrill electronics. It’s Crystal Castles minus the screeching lead singer.

Only at the end of the album does one realize how expertly monotonous Mogwai can be. About 40 minutes in to The Hawk is Howling, the droning “Scotland’s Shame” begins, layering variations on a figure that feels like the fusion of the opener and “The Sun Smells too Loud.” Mogwai has a technique, but after learning from Mr. Beast, the group has started making repetition and variation a central feature of the album instead of a general trait of every song they write. Instead of 60 minutes of unique pieces that could have been awesome, Mogwai gives us 10 songs that work best as one cohesive suite.

And with the closer, “The Precipice,” Mogwai wraps the other nine songs of this post-rock suite into one final theme. The track begins slowly with the delicate touch of the soft mediations that sit throughout The Hawk is Howling and builds to a surging torrent of growling guitars and waves of fuzz. Every element of the album is there, and Mogwai’s intentions seem much grander because of it. The Hawk is Howling may not justify the kind of hype Mogwai’s debut once did, but it’s just ambitious enough to prove the Glasgow mutes don’t necessarily need it.

3 stars out of 5