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In this series, Ivan Belcic invites sneaker-lovers from the metal world at large to share some favorites from their collections, pairing them with metal albums that fit just right.

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“Fashion defines cultures we are fascinated in or surrounded by.”

I wasn’t surprised to learn that Venom Prison had a sneakerhead in their midst. After all, they’re the band that recently dropped a tee and hoodie collab with streetwear icons The Hundreds — and so the only question was, who?

As it happens, it’s guitarist Ash Gray. As a young skater, Gray got his sneaker start with the tools of the trade. “I wore skate shoes, I was a skater,” he recalls. And though he’s always been drawn to metal, Gray wasn’t feeling the associated footwear: the “goth boots,” as he puts it, that his classmates wore at school.

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But when he began exploring the local hardcore scene, he found a whole new mode of self-expression and self-realization waiting for him. “I got into hardcore when I was young and noticed the streetwear culture of it instantly. It’s the same as hip-hop,” Gray says. “I started going to local shows after school, and that’s where sneakers and fashion all started to make sense to me.”

Between “all the Air Maxes and Reeboks” he saw around him at these events, it wasn’t long before Gray’s own passion for sneakers began working its way to the surface.

In both the metal and sneaker subcultures, and in streetwear as well, people can face immense pressure to conform -- to pick up the hyped releases, to be hyped about the trendiest labels, to look and act the part at all times, both online and off. Fall into that pattern, and you can easily lose sight of what initially drew you in. “Music has a massive impact on fashion and what people like,” Gray says, but by no means does he feel that anyone should let one determine the other.

“If you like it, and that’s what you like, then you should just wear it,” he affirms. “Don’t worry about what others say.”

-- Ivan Belcic

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Nike Air Max 98 (Gunsmoke / Team Orange / Laser Orange)

I’m sure I picked these up when Venom Prison was on tour with Fit For an Autopsy, I’m sure I got them from the Snipes store in Belgium, and the day I got them was my birthday. Every tour, I always end up coming home with a new pair, even if it’s boots. This Air Max 98 colorway is wild, and I fell in love with them instantly, adding to the retro vibe for those returning 98s.

Bands like Carcass, Death, and Napalm Death opened up a lot of different subgenres in metal. Death got me into a lot of more progressive metal and generally more death metal. The Sound of Perseverance probably isn’t the best match, but the record was out in 1998 and this Air Max design was from 1998. The trainer is definitely loud, and this record shreds.

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Nike Presto Fly SE (Oliver / Cargo Khaki)

I got these on the Trivium tour Venom Prison supported, and I also believe I got these from Snipes in Belgium as well, definitely a coincidence. These are also definitely the most comfortable pair I own. I use these for running and as stage shoes -- fear not, these are easy to wash.

The Trivium tour was Venom Prison’s biggest tour to date, with the biggest venues throughout the tour. I met a lot of great people on this tour and have a lot of good memories. We had a lot of time during the day before load-ins and soundchecking, so we were able to explore a lot. Same as every tour, I come across a pair of trainers or boots, and I’m like, “Yep, I probably need them.” You can never have enough footwear.

Cro-Mags’ Best Wishes is my go-to running record, and these are my running pair. It’s that or Exodus’ Bonded by Blood. I got into Cro-Mags when I was discovering hardcore and punk from local shows when I was younger. Seeing who those bands were influenced by and what people were listening to led me to bands like Cro-Mags, Leeway, Terror, and Buried Alive.

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Nike Air Max 95 (Neutral Olive / Total Orange)

It’s all about the orange on these trainers. I’ve had multiple pairs of 95s over the years, but these are definitely my favourite. I’m sure I picked these up just hanging around Cardiff with some mates one weekend. We used to all get together on the weekends to hang out, chat, walk around, check out some stores and chill. I didn’t get these from somewhere mental or when something wild happened, but it’s cool to acknowledge the good times you’ve had with friends, rather than everything having to have a purpose and a story.

Hatebreed and Satisfaction Is the Death of Desire: mosh record for mosh trainers. If I still had Air Max 91s, I would’ve picked them for mosh trainers. I spent many years rocking some 91s, going to shows and seeing my mates rock them -- I thought they were the coolest trainers around at the time. I’m sure Hatebreed were touring near where I lived, maybe on that Dying Fetus package they did in 2016 or 2017, when I bought these. They’re another band that opened a lot of doors for me, more on the side of hardcore and punk and getting into the whole scene.

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Nike Air Max Tailwind IV (Black / White)

These are the only black trainers I own. I have black boots and shoes, but not trainers. Long story short, I picked these up just before we were meant to go on tour this year -- Download Australia, Sydney and Melbourne, Southeast Asia and Hammersonic Festival, Parkway Drive, Hatebreed and Stick to Your Guns in Europe and UK. Due to COVID-19, the tours got cancelled, and I think this is probably the second time I’ve put these on… so they’re nice and clean. I think I put them on in the house once as well, so okay, I’ve worn them three times.

I thought I would treat myself to some new trainers for the tour, so yeah, I got excited and got ready for five weeks of tours coming my way. Then they all got cancelled, so these trainers will probably remind me of that.

Since I’ve only worn them three times, I’m going to have to pick something relevant to the story of when and why I picked them up: Ozzy Osbourne, Blizzard of Ozz. The first track, “I Don’t Know,” opens with lines pretty relevant to the current times, and I like this record a lot. My father used to listen to this album a lot. My father is a big Maiden, Motorhead and Sabbath fan, so that naturally rubbed off onto me.

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Reebok Classic Workout Plus (White)

I’ve always had a soft spot for Reebok Classics; you can’t really go wrong with them. For me, it was either New Balance or Reebok, and I always swayed towards Reebok, more even when I was a kid. I remember nagging my parents for a full Reebok tracksuit and Reebok Classics to go with it. I wish it all still fits. I'm sure that I looked ten out of ten on the fashion scale. I’ll check if I can still fit in them later, but I was 14, so let’s just assume not. I admire how minimal these are, but the soles of these Reeboks just win me over of these than some of the other designs.

For these, I need to pick something thrash metal, and it’s Arise by Sepultura. Picture all those old-school thrash bands rocking high-tops in their promo photos, Reebok or Nike, either are cool. These aren’t high-tops, but they’re definitely my pick for a relevant match.

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Venom Prison's latest album Samsara was released March 15th, 2019. Check out our interview with Gray from last year.

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Check out the prior installments of Metal Shoebox:

Metal Shoebox #1: Chris Smith of of Narakah and Grey Aria Design Studio

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