Score Reviews‎ > ‎

Black Sails by Bear McCreary (Review)

posted Jan 29, 2014, 9:54 PM by Kaya Savas

From stories set in the past, future and present you can always count on Bear McCreary building a sonic world for you to transport into. Every one of his scores boasts such a unique soundscape, but at the same time is so unmistakably McCreary. He is a great auteur and his work in television is hard to top these days. For Black Sails we get an aggressive and absorbing score. We just heard what Brian Tyler’s take on pirate lore was with his fantastic score to Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, and now we can get lost in McCreary’s Black Sails. The giant shadow that Hans Zimmer cast over the pirate genre will always be there, but this score is so immensely different than Pirates Of Caribbean so no worries there. Bear’s music feels as if it came from that world; it has a culture and a history and it’s damn good.

Percussion has always been Bear McCreary’s sonic staple, and it’s no different here. The score pounds away with big hits, small hits, ticks and tacks, and great rhythms. The hurdy gurdy is the instrument used to get that “piratey” and even “western” feel. The sound can be described as a fiddle blended with a bagpipe. Look up the instrument though, it’s a very interesting piece of gear. What I love about this score is that while we have an awesome “rock n’ roll” theme, we also have lots of small moments. The celtic flavors infused in the music make you feel the characters, and you can feel all the small working parts. The music feels alive and is clearly inspired by the sea shanties from that era. This is isn’t one big swashbuckling brushstroke that slaps you across the face. The show references a time in the world that existed so there are many factions and agendas that push the narrative. The music echoes this personal feel and makes the score that much more engrossing.

The score packs the CD to its physical limit nearing 80 minutes of music from season 1. I was impressed by the lengthy tracks that really build the narrative, which means the show relies on the score quite a bit. A lot more than say The Walking Dead, which I feel doesn’t utilize McCreary enough. Black Sails has emotional builds, wonderful textures and a soundscape that is unique to make it stand apart from Brian Tyler’s recent take and Hans Zimmer’s giant shadow. This is a damn fun score that has equal parts grit and elegance. McCreary delivers another fantastic experience worth getting lost in.