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The Walking Dead by Bear McCreary (Review)

posted Oct 19, 2017, 7:13 PM by Kaya Savas

Seven years ago Frank Darabont gave us the first episode of The Walking Dead. It was a rich and detailed adaptation of the comic book series of the same name by Robert Kirkman. Instead of being a horror show, it was instead an examination of human nature in a post-apocalyptic world when civilization crumbles. It was dark, grisly, entertaining and gave us rich character development. Hell it was even shot on 16mm film. Then it became a hit. With AMC trying to branch out from being known as the “movie rerun channel”, it had its first original hit series. Mad Men & Breaking Bad were acquisition shows, and AMC had nothing to do with the making of them. But with The Walking Dead, they were financing it and boy did they swoop this thing up into their claws, and in the process ripped it away from Frank Darabont. In the following seasons the series saw continued drama behind the scenes with shifting show runners and an ever-tightening grip from the AMC network trying to keep its ratings darling at the top. Of all the creative changes behind the scenes, somehow Bear McCreary has managed to escape an infecting bite and is still the series composer to this day. With a main theme that most people can recognize within the first second, the show has always had a strong musical identity. So why has it taken 7 years to finally get a goddamn soundtrack?

McCreary and fans have been pushing for a score release for years now. Why AMC has prevented this in the past is beyond me. The show still continues to be a ratings hit, and you would think seasonal soundtrack releases would be a no-brainer (no pun intended), but it has taken 7 seasons to finally get a sweet sweet taste of that McCreary music. McCreary selected both his favorite pieces as well as fan-requested pieces for this album that covers all 7 seasons.

The Walking Dead started off as a very sparsely scored series, and in many ways it remains that way. It always felt like this dreary post-apocalyptic western, and it definitely was approached that way. The pieces on the album do a great job of representing a lot of the more memorable character moments with a few high-octane bursts placed throughout. If you’re a viewer of the show you’ll know that Bear’s music has kind of been stepped on a bit with the use of source music, songs and evident temp track use. In recent seasons the score has definitely embraced more of that 80’s feel from time to time, but at its core it has remained the same thanks to Bear keeping the soul of Darabont’s original vision alive as best he can in the music. The Walking Dead is a frustrating show because sometimes the story and music suffer at the hands of execs trying to go for shock entertainment and plot cliffhangers, and in that we lose the humanity of what this show was about at the start. Every now and then it finds its way back in, mostly due to Bear’s music which remains to be the soul of the show.

The Walking Dead will always be one of the most interesting television shows due to its behind the scenes shakeups, and the series can indeed be hit or miss ever since Darabont left. But thankfully Bear has been part of the show from the beginning. This album is a great example of the best parts of The Walking Dead, because the music here is about the characters. It’s a shame it took this long to get the first score album mainly because this 1 album had to represent 7 years of music. Listening to this album reminded me of why I liked the show so much back in season 1, and how those specially crafted character moments still show up from time to time 7 years later. The Walking Dead is so much more than its iconic opening title, and even though the heart of what the show is can get lost from time to time, Bear is still able to keep this bleak world filled with humanity.