The 12 Best Songs From ‘The Walking Dead’ & ‘Fear The Walking Dead’ (VIDEO)

The Walking Dead
Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

For 10 seasons and more than 100 episodes, The Walking Dead has been killing zombies, exploring its post-apocalyptic world, celebrating the endurance of the human spirit and the bond between survivors… and playing some pretty great music.

It’s been said that if you notice music in the background, it’s not integrated well (after all, isn’t the point for the music to blend in with the scene?). But from songs with lyrics to Bear McCreary’s score, The Walking Dead has consistently featured tunes that perfectly fit the mood of their respective scenes—whether it’s heartwarming, heartbreaking or heartless.

Here are 12 songs worth noticing from The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead, and the scenes from which they came.

“Civilian,” Wye Oak

All those Hershel’s farm-era, Season 2 Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Shane (Jon Bernthal) rivalry feelings. This haunting track played as the pair drove back from exiling Randall in “18 Miles Out.”

“Arsonist’s Lullaby,” Hozier

Technically this didn’t play on the show, but it did play in the Season 6 trailer. It would’ve been great for the actual program, too, but it provided a perfect background for all the explosions and terror of the Wolves.

“Heads on Pikes,” Bear McCreary

Witnessing the fallout from Alpha (Samantha Morton)’s horrific brutality would’ve been chilling with silence, but with McCreary’s eerie score, the scene is positively nauseating. The way the score builds with each reveal is brilliant, leading up to Henry (Matthew Lintz)’s tragic fate.

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“Oats in the Water,” Ben Howard

This song became Hershel (Scott Wilson)’s unofficial theme in Season 4, after it played when he continued treating and trying to help ailing patients in the prison even when he knew it might cost him his life.

“Serpents,” Sharon Von Etten

“Serpents” pulled double duty in Season 4, serving as both the SDCC trailer music and the background tune when Rick exiles Carol (Melissa McBride). The acoustic guitar-driven track is perfect for such a pivotal, heartbreaking moment in Carol’s character development, and the quiet, contemplative scenes that follow.

“Space Junk,” Wang Chung

It’d be impossible to write this article and not include this Wang Chung classic—the first song with lyrics to play on the show. “Space Junk” has real significance in the TWD universe, too, bookending Rick Grimes’ time on the program; it played when he was trapped in the tank in the middle of Atlanta, and then again as CRM flew him away to a still-unknown destination.

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“Killing Machine,” Tony Crown

Fear Season 3 had some great music, including this haunting tune that played while Madison (Kim Dickens), Troy (Daniel Sharman) and the militia walked back to the ranch without their shoes, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) did some cliff-diving and Jeremiah (Dayton Callie) gave Nick (Frank Dillane) a gun.

“Stand By Me,” KI Theory

For fans of the original, this dark cover might be a little jarring. But it was fitting during a chilling-yet-inevitable conclusion to the impressive first half of Fear’s third season, which saw Madison and her kids standing on the porch of the Otto home, installed as leaders of Brokejaw Ranch by way of significant bloodshed (and a little decapitation). As she once said… if the Ottos couldn’t hold it, they’d take the place over.

“LA Goes Dark,” Paul Haslinger

Though the first season of Fear was controversial, there’s no question that this scene, where the lights go out in Los Angeles forever, is incredibly powerful: It might even be the show’s best. That’s largely thanks to Paul Haslinger’s creepy, pulsating score, which infuses the spectacle with equal parts awe and dread.

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“The River,” Blues Saraceno

Another one that wasn’t used on the show, but rather in promotional material. AMC hyped up Rick Grimes’ final episode for months before it aired, and in the final trailer before the pivotal installment, it chose to play “The River.” At the time it was just a melancholy tune to pique audience interest in what might have been Rick’s final moments, but in hindsight, it was foreshadowing. Where did Rick end up? In the river.

“Souvenir,” Julian Baker

There aren’t a whole lot of tearjerker songs on TWD, but “Souvenir” by Julien Baker is emotional. Crooning over the introductory minutes of “Scars,” “Souvenir” guides the audience through Michonne (Danai Gurira)’s tireless search for Rick and highlights her conflicting feelings of joy given her pregnancy with RJ and her grief over losing the love of her life.

“The Whisperers Theme,” Bear McCreary

The Whisperers, as Alpha says, are always watching… and Bear McCreary’s theme for the villains, which plays in variations every time they (or their leaders) are on-screen, certainly conjures that ever-present terror. McCreary does villain themes exceptionally well: Negan and The Governor had memorable tracks, too.

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The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC

Fear The Walking Dead Season 6, 2020, AMC