5. Elder, 'Reflections of a Floating World'
On their fourth LP, Massachusetts' Elder prove they're masters of the dying art of epic-scale rock composition, fully earning their jumbo-size track lengths, lofty lyrics and neo–Roger Dean album art. The key to their appeal is a skillful cherry-picking of around five decades worth of riffy awesomeness – not just the tectonic art-doom of the Neurosis school and the geeky proto–math rock of obscure proggers like Gentle Giant but also the Allman Brothers' way with a tasty melodic flourish and Hawkwind's spacey throb. An expert sense of pacing and guitarist Nicholas DiSalvo's soulful vocal hooks improbably make "Sanctuary," Reflections' 11-minute opener, one of the year's catchiest metal songs, and the intrigue stays high throughout the LP, even when the band indulges its minimal side on krautrock-y instrumental "Sonntag." For sheer gatefold-era grandeur, Elder had few rivals in 2017. H.S.