Credit: Illustration by Emily Flake

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For 10 years, Allen Cole has made the drive from Culpeper to the Tysons Corner Tower, aka Metal Tower. It was dubbed this by reputation. The store boasted a massive metal section that was further divided into subgenres such as power, thrash, death, and doom. This collection became such a regular destination for Cole that his friends would tease him about. He says he’d have other reasons, excuses to be in the area. Even so, his buddies just knew he’d end up cruising the store’s CD racks. “They always knew,” he explains. “They just know that’s the way I am.”

Cole, 36, is a metal guy, specifically a power-metal guy with an emphasis on import power metal. If you could dig deep into his stacks of CDs, you’d find that he is an Iron Maiden guy. He fell in love with the heavy stuff and happened to form a bond with the right Tower franchise. “Metal is my way of being different,” he explains, adding that he knows the explanation is bullshit, that the explanation has nothing to do with the music. But it’s an explanation that he can date to his school days, so it’s meaningful: “When I went to school with a Maiden shirt, it gave me a feeling of uniqueness.”

The shirt was fine, but the tunes were something else. “The riffs, the solos, the mystique,” Cole says, listing the reasons for his Maiden-love. “The Eddie character that’s on all the Maiden covers, the mascot.”

Cole has seen Maiden at least five times—the last requiring a drive to Camden, N.J., because the band skipped this area. On a recent weekday night, he is trolling the aisles in a Falcons hat, a Blind Guardian tour T-shirt, a camo undershirt, and gray sweat pants. He’s too late to find any rare metal records, but he scored some heavy DVDs.

Too bad Micah isn’t around anymore. Micah governed Tysons metal section and was always there to help Cole find his favorite European power-metal acts. A “good guy,” Cole says. “You could always ask him a question.”