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My Soundtrack for the Apocalypse

by Shawn Chesser

Music in film and television oftentimes sets the mood for a particular scene. For instance, a slow, drawn-out score heavy on bass and rich in timbre could be the prelude to a chase scene or perhaps foretell of a ratcheting-up of the onscreen action in general. Something more willowy and wispy (think the tinkling piano piece from Halloween) is likely to have the viewer expecting someone’s imminent demise and therefore wanting to pull the throw off the back of the sofa and shield their eyes against the onscreen carnage to come.

Chesser author pic

In my bestselling Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse series I’ve inserted song titles or snippets of lyrics numerous times as a foreshadowing device—or just to be a wiseass. I’ve referenced heavy metal, classic rock, and even Lady Gaga (a favorite of my protagonist’s daughter) throughout my series. In Trudge: Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse, the first book in my series, my protagonist is leaving the airport departure area after seeing his wife and daughter off there to embark on a cross-country plane ride. Upon driving away from the terminal he hears an off-putting news story coming on the radio and (insert groan here) opts to silence it in favor of music.

The following excerpt is from Trudge: Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse.

As Cade merged into the light traffic moving on I-205 he pushed the AUX button on the stereo and picked up his IPod Nano. He rapidly shook the electronic device and let shuffle decide which song he would get to listen to. He grinned when the first sitar riffs of the Doors’ song The End emanated from the speakers and then sang along with Jim Morrison for a few prophetic verses, blissfully unaware of the situation now unfolding in the heart of Portland.

Drawl by Shawn Chesser

In no particular order, here are my top five zombie slaying songs.

  1. Bodies by Drowning Pool … LISTEN

Starting with the whispered chant Let the bodies hit the floor this song ramps my adrenaline level to ten and pegs it there with wicked guitar solos as I’m decapitating Zs and wading through a sea of pasty, leaking corpses. (A fella’s gotta dream … doesn’t he?)

  1. The End by The Doors … LISTEN

Playing during the opening credits of Apocalypse Now (one of my all-time-favorite war movies) as napalm erupts in the background, this eleven-plus-minute song takes the listener on a lyrical roller coaster ride alternating between softly spoken words and bellowed, rage-filled prose.

The first sitar riffs of The End make me want to grab the Dillon minigun by the grips and hose down an advancing horde at 3,000 rounds per minute. (Still dreaming!)

  1. Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N’ Roses. … LISTEN

The hurricane-like start of this Eighties anthem featuring Axl Rose’s staccato delivery and Slash shredding on guitar would be the perfect accompaniment for a certain dreadlocked, machete-wielding character of mine to go on a Z killing spree—with Kindness, of course.

  1. Radioactive by Imagine Dragons … LISTEN

I first heard Radioactive when finishing up my fourth book, A Pound of Flesh, and, like Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries is to a certain helicopter assault scene in Apocalypse Now, this song is to APoF as it kept playing on a loop in my mind while I wrote that yarn’s final act.

For me, the lyrics of Radioactive instantly conjure up visions of an apocalyptic wasteland. Then, as the drumbeat kicks up, my imagination inserts the mega-horde of walking corpses, and before you know it I’m in the helo with Cade and the Delta team and about to go head to head with the whole lot of them.

Welcome to the new age, indeed.

  1. Indestructible by Disturbed … LISTEN

This song begins with the wailing of air-raid sirens, prolonged bursts of gunfire, and the distant, metronomic thump of helicopter rotor-blades beating the air. A hard-driving drum beat soon kicks in, followed closely by some of the best guitar and vocals I’ve heard from Disturbed. Therefore, it’s definitely a mainstay for me when writing action scenes featuring massive amounts of gunplay and, preferably, all manner of military hardware, helicopters principle among them. (Still dreaming and unashamedly living vicariously through my characters.)


Check out Drawl

or begin with the first book.

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Check out Book 2 of the Dead Song Legend by Jay Wilburn.

Dead Song Book 2 front cover

meJay Wilburn lives with his wife and two sons in Conway, South Carolina near the Atlantic coast of the southern United States. He has a Masters Degree in education and he taught public school for sixteen years before becoming a full time writer. He is the author of many short stories including work in Best Horror of the Year volume 5, Zombies More Recent Dead, Shadows Over Mainstreet, and Truth or Dare. He is the author of the Dead Song Legend Dodecology and the music of the five song soundtrack recorded as if by the characters within the world of the novel The Sound May Suffer. He also wrote the novels Loose Ends and Time Eaters. He is one of the four authors behind the Hellmouth trilogy. He cowrote The Enemy Held Near with Armand Rosamilia. Jay Wilburn is a regular columnist with Dark Moon Digest. Follow his many dark thoughts on Twitter, Instagram, and Periscope as @AmongTheZombies, his Facebook author page, and at JayWilburn.com

Or begin the series with Book 1.

Jay Wilburn - Dead Song Legend Series

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Jay Wilburn
Jay Wilburn has a Masters Degree in Education that goes mostly unused since he quit teaching to write about zombies. Jay writes horror because he tends to find the light by facing down the darkness. He finds the journey through life easier by having you join him. Jay is the author of 2 series: The Dead Song Legend and The Great Interruption. He cowrote The Enemy Held Near with Armand Rosamilia. You can also find Jay's work in Best Horror of the Year volume 5 and Dark Moon Digest. Each year Jay has the pleasure of featuring many great authors in the genre through the Summer and Winter of Zombie blog tours on his website.

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One comment

  1. EE Isherwood says:

    This is excellent. I’m a huge fan of music, and listen to music around the clock. I’ve often thought about putting together a playlist that corresponds to the chapters in my own books, but there are several things stopping me. First, any good-sized book will require 5-10 hours of music. Second, I’m the kind of person who would get lost in the creation process and it would probably take me a week to settle on the perfect 5-hour playlist, divided into chapters. And last, when it was all said and done, I doubt many people could tolerate my type of music for that long (indie, shoegaze, electronic dance). I once put together a CD of MP3’s (about 12 hours of music) and wanted it for a 14-hour drive to Colorado. My wife suffered through a good part of it, but somewhere in Kansas I could see the twitch in her eye. Then again, for zombie books, maybe the twitch is what you want? Not my style, but that opening to Indestructible is awesome.

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