Black Sails

Music By: Bear McCreary

Distributed by: Sparks and Shadows

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


Black Sails is a dramatic STARZ television series that takes viewers back to 1715, the Golden Age of Piracy.  The series takes place on New Providence Island, a territory run by pirates.  The British Navy has set its sights on recapturing the territory, but Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) has other plans.  Allying himself with Eleanor (Hannah New), daughter of the local kingpin (Sean Cameron Michael), Captain Flint and his crew are on a hunt for the ultimate prize to ensure their survival.  Standing in their way are rival pirate captains, Eleanor's own father and a new young recruit (Luke Arnold) who is less than trustworthy.

The musical score of Black Sails was created by American composer Bear McCreary who is no stranger to creating music for epic television series.  Best known for his work on Battlestar Galactica, McCreary has also created musical scores for such popular series as Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Human Target, The Walking Dead, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Defiance and Da Vinci's Demons

As I listened to the Black Sails Soundtrack, I was immediately taken by how much the score resembled just what I had imagined.  Having never seen the series, I could only go by what I had seen in previous movies and television shows about pirates.  I expected to hear fiddles, accordions and pipes performed in a style that would suggest something adventurous and carefree, yet a tad bit dangerous and that's exactly what I got.  I loved the Black Sails Theme, just a tad bit off-key and featuring electric guitars accompanied by all of the instruments I expected to hear and a wicked percussion beat, complete with singing pirates.

According to Bear McCreary, "My goal was to create music that sounds improvised by an exhausted crew aboard a ship navigating choppy waters.  I wanted the audience to sense dirt beneath fingernails plucking jangly mandolin strings, to feel urgent strains of a hurdy gurdy crank, and to smell stale air wheezing out of old accordion bellows...In place of soaring strings and ripping brass, I brought in a string quartet, rhythm guitar trio, percussion duo and various historical solo instruments...For the first time, I dropped my ruthless pursuit of rhythmic perfection and intonation precision and asked them not to play ‘too perfectly.’"  Thus, the slightly off-key sound and the authentic instrumentation, some of which was played by Bear McCreary via the accordion and the hurdy gurdy: "For the first time in my career, I suddenly found myself a primary soloist in my own music, which was great fun because I always love the opportunity to play and perform."

There are some incredible tracks on this album, featuring some rather interesting musical stylings.  One rather interesting track is Nassau Shores.  Designed to show us the exotic beauty of the island in addition to its dangerous side, the track features electric violins joined by a variety of interesting percussion instruments.  Another interesting track is Captain Kidd, which features an interesting percussion lead in, acoustic guitars and violins offering up a mix of danger, action and carefree adventure.  Silver Overboard offers up an exotic style and percussion with some slight ominous undertone perhaps speaking to some sort of treachery amongst the pirate crew.

The Black Sails Soundtrack features a fun and unique score that is definitely suited to the pirate action adventure series it was created for.  The music is enough fun to do well as a standalone album.  It's mostly upbeat and features exotic styles and percussions not often found in musical scores.  Black Sails definitely represents one of Bear McCreary's more unique musical creations and has piqued my interest in the show, a sure sign of a successful musical score in my opinion.  Once again, Mr. McCreary, a job well done!


For feedback, visit our message board or e-mail the author at