WHEN I VIEW A TRUE WHACK JOB, I often ask, “What were they thinking when they built this guitar?” But this time, I have to wonder what guitarists were thinking when they basically ignored the Peavey Mantis. Built in the USA from 1984 to 1986, the Mantis was released as part of a trio of pointy guitars (the Razer and the Mystic were the other models), and it came and went without even one visible rocker picking one up. Was it because male guitarists feared the Mantis would devour their heads immediately after “playing” with it?
The Mantis has 23 frets, one pickup, and a shredder’s body profile. Not really weird stuff, there, so perhaps the weirdest thing is, once again, why this model never became an iconic ’80s metal guitar.
PLAYABILITY & SOUND
Simply holding this guitar made me want to rush home and plug it into my loudest amp. The comfortable, 24 3/4" neck features what Peavey called “bi-laminated” rock-maple construction. The shape is made for dazzling audiences on stage, but the body is also super easy to play while seated.
The LT model came stock with a locking Kahler Flyer bridge and a Graphlon nut— both were considered serious upgrades at the time. But the really cool feature is the pickup— a 12-pole, fully adjustable humbucker with a custom Peavey circuit that lets you go from a single-coil tone to a humbucker sound simply by adjusting the Tone knob. Turn the knob to 10, and you get a very ballsy single-coil. Roll it back to around 7, and—voilà!—now you have a humbucker. It’s quite a benefit to be able to crossfade between two pickup tones while simultaneously adjusting frequency response. Bottom line: There are a lot of sounds on this guitar, and I like ’em all!
Retail price for a Mantis LT in 1985 was $399— about half of what a Gibson Les Paul Standard listed for. Currently, prices are somewhat volatile. I got my LT for $150 a couple of years ago from a Craigslist ad, and, recently, another Mantis went for $125 at an online auction (it was modified and had a non-locking bridge). On the other hand, there’s also a Mantis that sold for $2,500 in 2011 at an auction website.
WHY IT RULES
Can someone please tell me why Peavey never seems to get the consistent props it deserves for guitar and bass building? This is a wonderful, American-made guitar. It plays super fast, and, thanks to its stealthy Tone knob, the Mantis’ one-pickup tones are complex, varied, and musical. It not only functions at a high level as a metal screamer, it also delivers clean tones that are surprisingly sparkly. I highly recommend adding this guitar to your arsenal—that is, if you can find one at the right price!