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Admiral – Michiel de Ruyter (Trevor Morris)

March 12, 2015


Trevor Morris, 2015, Riva Media Records
30 tracks, 78:18

From The Netherlands comes a sea-faring, war-mongering epic: “Admiral”. Scoring duties landed with Trevor Morris. Can he deliver an equally epic score?

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

“Admiral” (or “Michiel de Ruyter”, as it’s originally titled) tells the story of Michiel de Ruyter, The most famous and most successful admiral in Dutch history. Living a long, often dramatic life, he is most famous for his role in the Anglo-Dutch wars, for which he effectively came out of retirement. This film seems to focus on Michiel’s war-faring years (roughly between 1650 until his death in 1676).

The film is directed by Dutch filmmaker Roel Reiné, who moved to Los Angeles in the mid 2000s where he subsequently directed films such as “Death Race”, “The Scorpion King 3” and “Seal Team 8”. Not exactly classics, but they taught him a lot about the ‘Hollywood way’ of filmmaking. That’s also where he met composer Trevor Morris; and Roel took all his new-found knowledge and his composer back to The Netherlands to make “Admiral”. With a budget of 8 million euros, it’s one of The Netherlands’ most expensive films ever – but it’s all up there on the screen. And it has a thundering score to match the visual.

What does it sound like?

One could say it sounds rather a lot like a your typical power-anthem action score. As such it has plenty in common with Brian Tyler’s work on “Iron Man 3” or “Thor 2”, though it also harkens all the way back to Hans Zimmer’s “The Rock”.

The main theme that Morris’ applies to Michiel is a heroic anthem for horns, with a rising feel to it; very similar to Tyler’s “Iron Man 3”. It crops up numerous times throughout the score, in various guises (note the melancholic rendition in “One Final Mission”, and the funereal variation in “Death of a Legend”). Elsewhere, Morris presents a quirky jig-like melody for violin (“Meeting with De Witt”, et al), which seems to owe a little to “Pirates of the Caribbean”, but actually sounds a more classy and less drunk. It seems to depict normal every-day life.

Frequently Morris returns to a rising arpeggio for strings, combined with a broad 5-note theme, as heard in “Michiel’s Commissioning”. I say 5-note… it depends on how you count. But also, I’m not sure if it’s really a ‘theme’ as such. It’s more a chord progression. There isn’t a great deal to it, but does have a ‘get up and go’ attitude. In “Preparing the Fleet” Morris utilises a strident theme for strings against powerful percussion. It’s similar to Michiel’s theme, but different enough to avoid being called a variation. It oozes determination, whilst refraining from going over the top. To be fair, so far it’s all very familiar and predictable stuff. But it’s done with such conviction, one can’t help but enjoy it.

Scattered throughout, is a quiet yet lyrical piano-driven theme for Anna, Michiel’s third wife. It, and other soft parts of the score, are regularly accompanied by a female ‘wailing’ vocal. This is arguably the score’s most peculiar element. I suspect it’s from a sample library, rather than a live performance, but that’s not really the issue. What is the issue is just how ethnic it sounds. I’m not one to easily complain about idiosyncracies (I have no problem with the percussive loops, the synths and electric guitars in this score), but the ethnicity of the vocals do irk me somewhat. I suspect Morris may have been going for a ‘Lisa Gerrard-on-Gladiator’-sound. For me, it doesn’t quite work. Maybe it’s simply because I am Dutch and I cannot associate our nation with ethnic wailing. In contrast, the solo cello is a wonderful addition, providing a mournful touch.

Last but not least, there are action cues aplenty here. And they often revolve around rhythms made up from heavy percussion, string arpeggios and (pseudo)electric guitar jabs, along with growling brass; in a similar vein as Morris’ own “Olympus Has Fallen”, “Vikings” or “Dragon Age Inquisition”. Equally they resemble the type of action music that Media Ventures was churning out in the 1990s. It is often loud, dense and oppressing. For some it may be a bit too much. The redeeming factor is that the main themes are never far away. The score remains melodic (or at the very least harmonic) at all times.

The album closes with “The End of an Age” which deserves a special mention all of its own. It’s a wonderful, lyrical aria for strings, choir, female and male solo vocalists. It owes a lot to Patrick Cassidy’s “Vide Cor Meum” (from the “Hannibal” score), but it is almost as beautiful. A classy ending to a thunderous and fun score.

Is it any good?

Trevor Morris’ “Admiral” (or “Michiel de Ruyter”) is a robust, powerful action-driven score. Yet, it entirely revolves around a number of heroic and dramatic themes. None of it is particularly original, as it owes a fair bit to Remote Control, Brian Tyler and Patrick Cassidy. At times it is rather busy, bordering on megalomania. You could argue that it’s over-produced in a similar way to how Hans Zimmer creates really dense soundscapes. Behind the orchestra and choir you can hear samples and percussive loops, cranking the score’s volume up to 11. It suits the film, though in reality Michiel was a much humbler man-of-the-people, …or so I’ve read. With nearly 80 minutes of Morris’ score made available, some may struggle to finish this bombastic score in one sitting.

That said… this album has found its way into my WinAmp player on an almost daily basis! I’ve lost count as to how many times I have revisited this music in the last few weeks. It’s a (guilty) pleasure. The themes are infectious. The dramatic cues are truly beautiful. The playful cues are really fun; and the action packs a punch. And it all ends with a gorgeous aria. So what if it’s a long way from being original – it is expertly executed. And if it’s too loud, you’re too old! “Admiral” is a tonne o’ fun!

Rating [3,5/5]


1. Michiel Is out There / The Battle of Scheveningen
2. It’s Our Blood
3. Was It a Boy or a Girl (Anna’s Theme)
4. Meeting with de Witt
5. Off You Go
6. Michiel’s Commissioning
7. Preparing the Fleet
8. To the Fatherland
9. Trevor Morris – Battling the Royal Charles
10. Michiel’s Happy Family
11. The King Will See You Now
12. St. James Day Battle
13. Anna Receives Letters
14. Sneaking into English Harbor
15. Presenting the Stern
16. Anna & Michiel Losing Sleep
17. Burn His House Down
18. Maastricht
19. Torturing Cornelis
20.Setting the Trap
21. Death of the De Witts / Michiel Escapes the Mob
22. Back to Sea – Strategy
23. Planning the Battle
24. The Battle of Kijkduin / Bestevaer
25. The Powers Convene
26. One Final Mission
27. Saying Goodbye
28. Death of a Legend
29. The End of an Age


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